Thursday, May 31, 2012

Justice For All

I'll never forget the first court case I covered as a radio reporter in Marinette-Menominee.  Two Marinette High School students decided to skip classes and spent the day drinking at one of their houses.  The boys then got into a car--which ran off a winding road near the golf course and smashed into a tree.  As often happens in crashes like this, the passenger was killed--while the driver survived.  The teen was then charged--as an adult--with homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle and homicide by reckless operation of a vehicle.

At his initial appearance on the charges, the mother of the victim tried to interrupt the proceedings a couple of times--each time saying she "needed to tell the judge something".  Correctly, Judge Tim Duket denied her the opportunity.  But after the hearing, I asked her to tell me what she wanted to tell the judge.  The mother then went on a two or three minute tirade about how charging her son's killer was "unfair and unneccessary--as he never meant to kill her son.  This was just a tragic accident and sending him to prison isn't going to bring her son back."

I must have had an obviously incredulous look on my face, as she said "I'm serious, there is absolutely no reason to file these charges--this was an accident--not a crime."  And that was her position all the way through the court process.  Even after the defendant plead guilty to the felony charge, the victim's mother came to the sentencing hearing and used the "Victim Impact Statement" period to launch into a tirade against the Marinette County District Attorney for going against her family's wishes and pursuing the criminal charges--and saying again and again how it was "just an accident" and that "he never meant to kill my son" and that "he has already suffered enough".

That is not the only time I've seen this reaction to criminal charges in connection with incidents like this.  There have been dozens of cases where wives, friends, cousins and even children have been killed--whether it be through drunk driving, reckless driving or other negligent behavior--and those who have lost loved ones insist no "real crime" has been committed.  And that is the reaction I now expect in the case of a Campbellsport girl who killed three friends and injured five more in a crash last February.

The families of those whose daughters were killed had no comment on the filing of negligent homicide charges yesterday--but based on the comments posted under on-line reports of the story show Campbellsport is reacting just like that mother in the Marinette case--"that girl has suffered enough" and "what will be accomplished by sending her to jail" are among the responses.

To those of you who share those feelings I ask: what if that had been a chauffeur who was driving at 100 miles an hour before losing control of the vehicle and crashing?  Would you say "let him be" if he said he felt horrible about killing those girls?  If the SUV had been hit by another vehicle doing 100 miles an hour would you think the driver should go free because "sending him to jail won't bring those girls back"?  I highly doubt you would.

The image of "Justice" wearing a blindfold is meant to convey the message that your skin color, gender, religion, sexual orientation and status in society doesn't matter--you will all be treated the same under the law.  It's about time we apply that same basic tenet to one's relationship to the people you harm or kill with criminal behavior.

And as a post-script to this "Two Cents":  Fond du Lac County District Attorney Dan Kaminsky punting this case to Winnebago County DA Christian Gossett due to "the emotional impact this case has had on the Campbellsport area" is GUTLESS.  We all know this is an election year.  You were put into office to handle "tough" cases like this--regardless of how it might affect your "political position".

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

Today is one of those days when we should thank Al Gore for inventing the internet.  Thanks to Al's invention, we can find out just about everything we need to know about the finalist for Oshkosh School Superintendent--Stan Mack II--in just a few keystrokes and mouse clicks.  In the "old days" we here in the local media would have only been able to call the Robbinsdale School District for background on Mr Mack.  We would have been given the tried and true "He was a great leader" and "He really cared about kids" answers from officials over there--as no one wants to risk potential lawsuits from giving anything but glowing reviews of a person's performance.  But thanks to Google, previous media coverage of Mack is readily available to everyone immediately.

Like Mack was named in a lawsuit by a group that successfully deafeated a 228-million dollar referendum in Robbinsdale back in 2007. and  In the wake of that defeat, Mack called the anti-referendum effort "Racist, without conscience and untruthful".  Fiscal conservatives in Oshkosh have been called a lot of things by leaders in the School District--"Obviously, they don't care about children" and "I'm embarrassed to live in the same district as these people" are two of my personal favorites from former School Board members--but "racists" will be a new one.  Glad to know the "political discourse" won't be changing under the new leadership.  The lawsuit was eventually dropped, because honestly, how can you possibly slander a political action group?

We should also assume that Mr Mack will not be requiring any health insurance benefits from the Oshkosh School District.  Mack's severance package with the Robbinsdale District included coverage under their plan until he reaches the age of 65 and becomes eligible for Medicare:  I'm sure that taxpayers in Robbinsdale are happy that they are footing the bill for at least 29-thousand dollars a year to provide health insurance to their "retired" Superintendent who never actually tried to stop working--given his immediate applications for Saint Paul and Bismark, North Dakota superintendent vacancies.  Trust me, we will be asking Mack questions about that when the School Board makes a "public introduction" of him this afternoon.

And speaking of questions, can we trust that the School Board has properly vetted these issues with Mack during their two interviews with him?  I'd hate to have to do a story about how Oshkosh Schools are paying Mack "to purchase his own health insurance" when we now know that is not necessary. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


As we were coming home from my parents' place Up North this weekend, we drove through Antigo.  Along Highway 45 was one of those "Super Patriot" houses.  You know the house I'm talking about--a bunch of flags in the yard, a "God Bless the USA" sign, campaign yard signs for Ron Paul for President and "I stand with Scott Walker".  But mixed in with the Red, White and Blue and the POW flags was a Conferderate flag.

To me, putting out the Stars and Bars shows everyone that homeowner is at least a hypocrite and is certainly an idiot.  Does he or she realize that the Confederate States of America was an ENEMY of the United States of America?  Does that homeowner know that 360-thousand of the men who we remembered yesterday were killed fighting the Confederate Army?  Would they consider themselves as patriotic if they planted a Nazi Swastika flag or a Japanese Rising Sun flag or a North Vietnamese flag in the middle of their "display"?

And they do realize that the Confederacy broke away from the United States because he refused to recognize the basic American tenet that the Constitution is the SUPREME GOVERNING DOCUMENT in this country?  Kind of goes against the Constitutionalist beliefs of one Ron Paul.

I thought that Antigo homeowner was the biggest idiot I would see on Monday--but then a woman driving a rusty, brown minivan with Minnesota plates decided to top that.

I was on the way to the studios yesterday afternoon for the severe weather warnings when this woman passed me along Witzel Avenue nearing the roundabouts.  She never stopped heading into the Koeller roundabout--forcing a car going straight in the inside lane to lock up the brakes and lay on the horn.  Ms Minnesota then stopped in the middle of the roundabout--obviously confused as to why cars were almost hitting her and honking their horns at her.

I slipped past the woman--hoping that she would not do the patented "left hand turn from the right hand lane" that has become the hallmark of the Oshkosh roundabouts and broadside me as I went straight through in the inside lane.  At the Washburn roundabout, I had to wait for a car coming from the left and going straight when the minivan woman drove in without stopping and AGAIN forced the other vehicles to lock up their brakes and lay on their horns--before stopping in the middle of the roundabout AGAIN likely cussing out everyone else on the road.

I've seen plenty of people cause crashes and near crashes in one of the roundabouts--but this was the first time that I have seen an idiot go for the "daily double".

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Quick Hits

In this election year, I can tell you where to find angry and frustrated people.  Just go to the roundabouts along Witzel Avenue and Highway 41 any afternoon.  You'll find the angriest and most frustrated people at the end of the westbound line that extends all the way back to Sawyer--more than a half-mile from the first roundabout.  The end of the school year cannot come fast enough for those of us who have to navigate those roundabouts--it will give us a bit of relief from the backups.  I hope.

I'm honestly surprised that Green Bay isn't going even more overboard with this whole Donald Driver/Dancing With the Stars thing.  I fully expected a press release from Mayor Jim Schmitt announcing a "Return To TitleTown" parade through downtown Green Bay--followed by a fan rally at Lambeau Field.  At least Action 2 is trying to milk this for all its worth--with a one-hour, primetime special "looking back at Donald's amazing run to the Mirror Ball Trophy!"  The good news is that Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy won't give a rat's behind about dancing titles when they decide if their fourth (or fifth) receiver is worth a $5-million hit to the salary cap and a $1.2-million dollar roster bonus due at the start of training camp.

Indulge me for a minute here while I sound off on another one of my pet peeves.  I hate when people say we are honoring "all those who served their country" on Memorial Day.  While our Military men and women are to be celebrated every day, Veterans Day is for all of the living soldiers.  Memorial Day is for those who gave their lives to protect and build this country--hence the use of the word "Memorial".  Hopefully we can all take a moment or two this weekend to think about those who truly "gave all".

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Peace and Love, Man

When are the Hippies going to give it up?

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I saw the news reports last night on Peter Yarrow's program with kids in a Green Bay elementary school.  The former member of Peter, Paul and Mary brought his "anti-bullying campaign" to the kids--teaching them to stand up to teasing and peer pressure by singing folk songs like "Blowin' In the Wind" and "Puff the Magic Dragon".

You could see the look on the kids' faces as this old man was trying to teach them these songs with his acoustic guitar--they were like "Dude, seriously?"  As I watched the on-stage presentation with these kids looking less-than-enthused to be singing along, I thought: "Wow, are those kids going to be teased endlessly about this."  And of course, Yarrow has that condescending "I'm going to talk to you like you are a three-year old child" way of addressing people that was portrayed so perfectly by Christopher Guest as another washed up folkie in the mock-umentary movie A Mighty Wind. 

Bringing in Yarrow and his Hippiefest wasn't actually the idea of the school itself.  A "concerned parent" is the one who put together the show.  In her interview she said (in the same condescending "you are all children to me" voice) that kids need to learn the "power of music to change the world around them".  I wonder what would have happened if a parent had suggested the school host a special program with Mixed Martian Arts legend Chuck Liddell to teach the kids how to stand up for themselves by beating the crap out anyone who gives them a hard time?

There are two things that lead me to wonder why the school agreed to host Yarrow at all.  First, we hear all the time about how "different kids are today" and that "the old way of teaching just doesn't work anymore".  So why then do you bring in a guy who sings 50-year old folk songs that have no relevance to today's eight year olds?  Second, Peter Yarrow is a convicted child molester.  In 1970 he was found guilty of statutory rape for having sex with a 14-year old girl who came to a Peter, Paul and Mary concert.  I'm guessing that was not promoted on the fliers and posters for his show in Green Bay.  I'm also guessing that Yarrow doesn't promote that as part of his "expertise" in boosting kids' self-esteem.  His usual answer to questions about that incident and working with children now: "Unfortunately, it was a far too common thing back then."

Peace and love, man.  Peace and love.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Very Good Day

While there is nothing "enjoyable" about six hour School Board meetings, crashes at EAA or sentencing hearings for drunk drivers who kill people--occassionally I do get to have a little bit fun in my job.  Today is one of those "fun" days--as I get to take part in the Media Day for the US Womens Open at Blackwolf Run.

The best female golfers in the world will be coming to Kohler 4th of July week for the toughest test in golf--playing the Championship Course--made up of holes from both the River and Meadow Valleys courses.  And today, I--along with other members of the press--get a chance to put our skills on display, playing the very same course from the championship tees.

We also get to check out the games of defending Open Champion--So Yeon Ryu--and the woman who won the tournament the last time it was held at Blackwolf--Se Ri Pak.  There is nothing more humbling than watching a five-foot-five-inch Korean woman outdrive you by 10- to 20-yards on every hole.  Kind of makes you appreciate the talents of those who make a living playing the game.  I just hope I might get a quick lesson to improve my ballstriking--which has been dismal so far this year.

Given my struggles this spring--just breaking 90 today will be a huge accomplishment.  A couple of weekends ago a friend and I played the entire River Course from the blacks and I scored a 93--so there is some hope.  Anyways, I look forward to a fun day of "work".  It sure makes up for those School Board meetings.

Monday, May 21, 2012

One of My Pet Peeves

Maybe it's because I'm from a generation that didn't get participation trophies and that had to build up its own self-worth and self-esteem--but I have a wierd "thing" about sports championhips.  I bring this up following last week's well publicized purchase of a pawned-off Packers Super Bowl ring by a Neenah man--who says he plans to wear the ring out and about.  For some reason, I have a problem with that--because he didn't "earn the right" to wear that ring.  I'm sure the man who bought it is a very nice gentlemen--but he had absolutely nothing to do the team winning that championship.

I'll grant you, the woman who pawned the ring didn't make a single tackle or catch a single pass for the Packers--but maybe she booked the wedding reception in the Atrium that helped the team pay those that did.  And I bet her paycheck still has the iconic "G" on the upper left-hand corner--making her at least a part of the franchise.  I'd venture to say that she did more for the organization than any of the Board of Directors members who also got rings--and are the most likely to wear them based on the fact they always have them on when I meet those members.

When my beloved Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup for the first time in 39-years last June, the team ran a number of on-line contests associated with the Championship.  One of them was a raffle where the winner would get their own Stanley Cup ring.  It would be modeled after the ring the players got--but would have your name on it.  They also offered a contest where you could have the Stanley Cup for a Day--just like each of the players in the off-season.  I did not enter either of those contests.

The ring drawing cost money--so that was right out the window for me--but I just couldn't see wearing the thing and having to admit that I got it just because my name was picked--not because I had anything to do with the Bruins franchise.  As for Day with the Cup...I've had my picture taken with the Stanley Cup three or four times now.  In none of those instances have I even touched the thing.  Why?  Because I believe touching the Cup is reserved strictly for those who have earned the right to not only touch the Cup--but to also have their name on the Cup.  It irritates me when I see these chuckleheads at events hoisting it over their heads like they are the Captain of the winning squad who just had it handed to them by the Commissioner at center ice.  My Day With the Cup would have been the most boring in history--since the guy with the white gloves would have been the only person touching it as I stopped at all my friends' houses.

A couple of years ago, my wife's employer held its annual awards banquet in Madison--and their guest speaker was Badger Women's Hockey Coach--and member of the 1980 Olympic Hockey Team--Mark Johnson.  After finishing his speech about his experiences with that team, Coach Johnson told us that he had brought along his Gold Medal--and that he would be available for pictures with it when the banquet was done.

After knocking several women to the floor to get to the receiving line as quickly as possible, I saw that the early arrivals were not just having their picture taken with the medal--THEY WERE PUTTING IT ON THEIR NECKS!!!  As my wife will attest to, I was really pissed off about that.  They didn't earn the right to wear that medal!  They didn't do all the "Herbies" at practice, they didn't score two goals against the most powerful team in the world in the Medal Round and they didn't rally in the 3rd period against Finland to clinch the medal--HOW DARE THEY PUT IT AROUND THEIR NECKS!!

When I finally got to the front of the line, Coach Johnson handed me the medal and I held it by the ribbon for our photo op.  He asked if I wanted to put it on.  I told him "No way, Coach--you earned the right to wear it--not me."  And he gave me a smile that I thought said "I know that, and you know that--but we'll let the rest of these people feel special about themselves for a few minutes."

Friday, May 18, 2012

Less Than Compelling

First off, I have to call "BS!" on both of the political parties in this argument over which set of unemployment numbers is "more accurate".  For three and a half years the Republicans have been using the initial unemployment estimates to show how "President Obama's Economy is hurting Wisconsin."  Now that the numbers show job losses--the GOP says that report is "wildly inaccurate" and that the revised state report is the one to trust.  Meanwhile, for years Democrats used the revised state report to claim that "Wisconsin was doing better than the rest of the country under Jim Doyle's leadership".  But now that the numbers can be used to Governor Walker's advantage--someone is "cooking the books".  To first tout statistical reports for telling the "real story"--and then trying to discredit those VERY SAME REPORTS when they don't favor your political agenda is disingenuous to say the least.

In a related matter....

When we got past the primaries this month, I thought we would really see recall campaigns begin.  I thought the Democrats and their supporting political action committees would come out the with ads and talking points making a compelling argument for why a sitting governor should be removed from office in the middle of his term.  Instead, all we've had for two weeks is the same rhetoric that we've come to expect from the regular elections.

A recall is an extraordinary event--and voters want to hear extraordinary arguments for why they should fire someone in the middle of a job.  "The state has lost (or gained--see argument above) "X" number of jobs over the past year" is going to be your main argument?  Better get recall papers ready against 12 other governors then--some of them Democrats.  "He has divided the state" is another reason?  Some of us welcome actual political discourse rather than the political disconnet we went through in the post-Watergate 1970's.

Look at the recall of California Governor Gray Davis.  Republicans gave voters two compelling arguments to give him the boot.  1--The state was literally bankrupt and unable to keep its offices or the schools open for five days a week.  Kind of a primary function of the government itself--and if you can't accomplish that, you deserve to go.  2--Arnold Schwartzenegger is a movie star (a sure-fire reason for your vote in California).

So c'mon Wisconsin Democrats, give us that extraordinary, compelling reason to take the historic step of removing a sitting governor and lieutenant governor.  Based on the latest polls, at least half of us are waiting.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Story Time With Jonathan

Did I ever tell you about the time that I was the source of a grievance filed against the Village of Howard by the union representing Public Works employees?

When I was in school I worked summers for the Village Parks Department as a seasonal employee.  The first day of the first year I did that I learned the two most important rules of the department--Number One: don't work too fast, so the supervisors think that we are always super busy--and Number Two: don't work past 3:30 in the afternoon, because only the "union guys" can work overtime.  A number of times we had to leave projects partially-done and call in the "union guys" to complete the work--at time and a half--after we had to head back to the shop to punch out.

So, one year I was on the ball diamond crew, prepping fields for little league and softball games later that day.  It was a good gig--since I played ball just about every night--using one of the diamonds I worked on, so that one always got a little extra prep so there would be no bad hops on the infield and that the left-hand batters box didn't get that big hole that forced hitters to run uphill to first base.  That summer, the village hosted the ISC State Tournament--with the top finishing teams earning spots in the World Championships a few weeks later in Kimberly--so it was a pretty important thing.  And my team was playing in it. 

As luck would have it, on the Friday of the opening games an afternoon severe thunderstorm rolled through--dumping heavy rain on the park.  We went back to the diamond to find it unplayable.  The outfield had standing water and the infield was nothing but mud.  I radioed in to the superviser and he came to check it out.  It was already 3:00--and it would be at least two hours work to get the diamond ready to play.  So my super asked if I and my crew partner (who was also going to be playing ball on that field that night) could stay on site and "volunteer" our time to get the diamond ready to play.  He would drive our work truck back to the garage after we were done--and he would put down that we "forgot" to punch out at 3:30 so we weren't working OT.

We pumped the water off the outfield, mixed in some diamond dry to get the infield playable and restriped the field--getting it ready just in time to play the first game.  We were actually pretty proud of ourselves for getting the job done well and at a savings to the taxpayers as well--since we were "off the clock".

Unfortunately, the union steward drove by the diamond after 3:30 and saw me, my teammate and our supervisor out there working the field--with our work truck parked in the lot.  On Monday, he checked out our time cards--saw that we were not punched out at 3:30 on Friday--and assumed that we were working "on the clock" in violation of the contract.  A grievance was filed because a union member was improperly denied an opportunity to get overtime (although I can't imagine anyone giving up a summer Friday afternoon to push mud off a ball diamond and slosh around ankle deep water in the outfield).

Needless to say, a whole bunch of people got called on the carpet for this attempt to better serve the public.  Obviously, it's an incident that stays with me almost 20-years later.  Just thought you might enjoy that little tale.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Here's Johnny!

PBS featured Johnny Carson on its American Masters series last night.  There is nothing like a look back to show you how much better things were in the past.  You compare what Johnny was doing in the 60's, 70's and 80's to what passes for late night TV now--and it is no contest.

Johnny was obviously a better joke teller than any of today's hosts.  David Letterman has never been comfortable doing standup--and for years treated the monologue as a joke--knowing the better part of his show was in the skits, the Top Ten List and Dave just being an all-around grouch.  Meanwhile, Jay Leno tries too hard to make every joke work and the rest of the guys just aren't that funny (I'm talking to you Jimmy Fallon).

Carson was also the master interviewer--allowing guests to actually answer questions--rather than jump in on them to say something funny and steal the laugh.  Watch the late night hosts now and see how many of them can't let a guest finish more than three sentences without cutting them off or trying to change the subject.  That is definitely a lost art today--conversation.

Johnny also preferred to take gentle jabs at his celebrity and political targets--rather than turn his monologue into a ten minute advertisement for the party or candidate of his choice.  The Daily Show and the Colbert Report are funny--but you know going in that you aren't going to hear a lot of attacks on Democrats--and that Republicans will always be portrayed as bigoted, ignorant and greedy.  As one of the talking heads pointed out last night, you had no idea what Johnny's political alliances were--because he took both parties out behind the woodshed.

My best memories last night weren't any specific skit or joke or celebrity guest.  For me, last night's documentary took me back to Friday nights at my Grandparents house, where my Grandma and I would stay up to watch Johnny.  (Funny thing, the show's name was the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson--but nobody called it "The Tonight Show"--it was either "Carson" or "Johnny").  Amazingly, a woman in her seventies and boy in his pre-teen years could each find something to laugh about on the show--yet another mark of Carson's genius.  I also thought back to watching Johnny's annual prime-time anniversary show with my Mom--the two of us laughing until we had tears running down our cheeks and our sides hurt.

I have to admit that I moved away from Johnny toward the end of his TV career.  I was part of that generation that flocked to Late Night With David Letterman--lured in by the edgier comedy and the much more irreverent approach to television.  I did come back right at the end as Johnny celebrated his long good-bye.  That final show was actually the only time a Bette Midler appearance didn't make me change to another channel immediately.

I think we all knew back then that when Johnny was gone it wouldn't be the same.  I guess we didn't realize just how much we would actually miss his magic.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Call

When you are a couple looking to adopt, there is one call you never hope to get from your case worker: "The birthparents have changed their minds--they are keeping the baby."  On Sunday--Mothers Day--my wife, Michele, and I got that call.

It turns out that the birthmother who two weeks ago told us how happy she was to have picked us to raise her child gave birth to that baby on Thursday--without telling her case worker in Eau Claire.  In fact, her case worker had to track her down at the hospital late Friday to find out what was going on.  Apparently, her parents convinced her to keep the baby--and they would help her raise the child.  We were out of town this weekend--so our caseworker didn't get ahold of us until we got home Sunday afternoon.

Unfortunately, having a placement fall through is a very common occurrance in the adoption process.  It's why we were just going to "borrow" many of the things you need for a baby from our relatives and friends until the birthmother's parental rights were terminated.  Nonetheless, it wasn't easy for my wife to pack up all that stuff to take back to the people who were so happy to give it to us.

It would be easy to be angry or bitter toward the birthmother--but I guess this just shows how difficult it is to make the decision to give up a child for adoption.  My wife and I are very disappointed--but I guess that in the back of our minds we always had the fear that we would get that call.

So now it is back to square one--we go back into book of parents in this area looking for a child to adopt--waiting for another birthmom to find something in our portfolio that speaks to her and makes her believe we are the one's to raise her child.  We have no plans to give up on the process--no matter how difficult it might be from here on out.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Scary Stuff

Thursday was one of those "scary days" I have everyone once in a while here at the Radio Ranch.  I covered the sentencing hearing yesterday for Donald Martin--who was found guilty of killing an Oshkosh woman in a dispute over drugs.

Martin struck the woman in the head fourteen times with a claw hammer.  When the woman started moaning loudly, Martin was afraid her neighbors would hear her--so covered her face with a pillow and tried to suffocate her.  When that didn't work, Martin slit her throat.  According to testimony during his trial, Martin taunted the woman's dead body, "played with" her body parts and stuck needles in her arm before finally leaving the crime scene with his fiancee and their baby.  Yes, their baby was with them at the scene of this brutal murder.

Donald Martin becomes my new poster boy for why we need the death penalty in Wisconsin.  I support the death penalty--not as a means of deterring serious crimes (I know that people who kill don't have in the back of their minds the concern that "If I do this, I'll be put to death"--they are just thinking about whatever satisfaction or benefit they will get from committing the crime)--but rather as a form of punishment that truly fits the nature of the crime.  And in Martin's case, death would actually serve as a way to protect the public.

Death penalty opponents say keeping a person locked up forever and never letting them out is enough to keep up safe--but Martin was making efforts to show that is not true.  While being held for this heinous crime, Martin tried to solicit fellow inmates to kill one of the main witnesses for the prosecution.  He also sent letters to his friends on the outside asking them to "get the word out" that he could supply his fellow prisoners with drugs behind bars.  For Donald Martin, going to prison was just going to be a new "business opportunity".

Some bleeding hearts will point to Martin's drug addiction as some kind of mitigating factor in his behavior--and how "treatment and rehabilitation" is what is really needed here.  They probably don't know that Martin had gone through the state's Challenge Program for drug addict prisoners--completing a year-long boot camp that earned him early release on a previous armed robbery conviction when he was 18.  Martin admitted to his presentence investigation writer that he started doing drugs again just two weeks after completing that program.  This was a guy who actually loved the drug dealer lifestyle and described himself as "born to hustle."

What was scariest yesterday was the reaction Martin had to repeated descriptions of the attack and murder.  He sat there stonefaced--chewing his gum and just staring straight ahead.  He offered the usual "so sorry this had to happen" apology that so many other convicts offer--but this time with ZERO emotion.  He didn't flinch when Judge Scott Woldt gave him life without parole--just kept chewing his gum and staring into empty space.

So off he goes to a maximum security facility to eat three meals a day, to watch TV, to get visits from his family and to plot ways to either exact his revenge from behind bars or to become the "go to guy" for "a fix" in the prison.  Does that sound like justice to you?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

6 & 1/2 Hours

Six and a half hours.

That is how long the Oshkosh School Board sat in closed session last night deliberating the fate of West Boys Basketball Coach Brad Clark.  Six and a half loooooong hours, with dozens of Clark supporters and reporters waiting for a decision.  When a meeting drags on like that--and you don't know exactly what is going on in there--you begin to imagine what is actually happening behind those closed doors.  Here's what I think happened:

4:30 pm to 5:30--Boardmembers are briefed on what basketball is.  The Oshkosh School Board is a National Public Radio/New York Times crowd.  Their exposure to hoops has probably been limited to stories about "Mr. Jeremy Lin" who has been "breaking the stereotypical model of what a National Basketball Association star player is expected to be".  Given the fact that I don't see but one of the School Boardmembers at sporting events tells me they aren't real "plugged in" on that co-curricular activity--so some background information was certainly in order.

5:30 to 7:00--Brad Clark and attorney Peter Culp present their side of the case.  I'm sure much of the discussion centered around why Coach Clark would ever think about yelling at student-athletes--since children today need to be coddled and reassured that "just trying is victory in and of itself".  There was probably much discussion about playing time--and why all members of the team can't get equal minutes during the game--because that would be the "fair thing to do".  Based on the expression on Clark's face when he left the conference room--he was not real happy about what had transpired in there.

7:00 to 8:30--The Board hears from West Principal Ann Schultz and Athletic Director Brad Jodarski.  Those two were sequestered within the District Administration Building last night to keep them away from the dozens of "Team Clark believers".  I would hope that during their presentation names were put to accusations--that actual dates were provided for alleged incidents--and that perspective was provided on the behavior of coaches across all sports in the District.

8:30 to 9:00--The Board orders and eats dinner.  Those waiting on the meeting started bringing in food around this time--and my wife ran some Mickey D's over for me as well (LET ME TAKE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO SAY THAT I HAVE THE GREATEST WIFE IN THE WORLD).  I'm guessing the Board was hungry as well and probably got some Jimmy Johns delivered.

9:00 to 9:01--Boardmembers discuss their own experiences in high school athletics.  "I got beat up by the jocks in my school" and "I was a Mathlete--does that count?"

9:01 to 9:30--The board discusses the results of the recall election primary and its potential impact on the teachers union.  Yes, this was not on the agenda and would not be allowed in closed session discussion--but we already know this Board doesn't really care about open meetings laws and they will do whatever they please out of the site of the public and the media.

9:30 to 10:50 pm.  The Board finally settles down to discuss its exit strategy.  It wouldn't surprise me if that at some point in the conversation the idea of just doing away with basketbal is discussed as it is "obviously a devisive program that does nothing to foster a positive learning experience"--plus, it makes the Board even less popular than it already is with the public at large.

Finally, at 10:50 the Board reaches its decision that Brad Clark will not be retained as West coach.  However, in a stunning move that shows a complete lack of how team sports operates, a proposal is added on that Clark will be considered for the job in 2013.  I'm sure the District will be flooded with applications from coaches looking for one year on the job in a program where a select few complainers were allowed to drive off the former coach--and then having the ex-coach reconsidered for the position the next year.

Of course if I was Brad Clark, I would tell the Board to take the "option of returning in 2013" and stuff it.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


So the recall election will be a rematch of the 2010 gubernatorial election.  Whoopie!!  Comedian Kevin James in his standup routine had a bit about people who got divorced and then started dating each other again saying "It's like going to the refrigerator and taking a big gulp of milk and realizing 'Oh that milk is sour!!'  Then going back an hour later and saying 'Hey, I wonder if that milk got any better?'"

One of the drawbacks of working in the media is that sometimes the best thing for your job isn't the best thing for you as a "regular citizen".  The best potential outcome for this recall race in June would be a very narrow victory by one of the candidates--forcing a recount.  And I don't mean a one-percent win--but a victory based on just a handful of votes--like a couple hundred statewide.

A recall recount would be the perfect ending to what has been a circus from day one.  First, you would have no concession speech on election night.  The winner would be demanding the loser concede--the loser would be saying it's "still too close to call!"  That would be followed by the usual assortment of "voter fraud" claims--"I tried to vote but I was told I couldn't" or "I saw bags of ballots just sitting in the corner unguarded" or "felons got off a bus and cast ballots in exchange for packs of cigarettes!"

Then would come the recount process itself--which would require at least two attornies on hand to challenge every stray mark or "too light for the machine" to read circle on every single ballot in all 72 counties.  And when the race gets even tighter (or the results "flip" as a result of the recount) you will have the legal challenges--first in Dane County court if Tom Barrett loses-or in Waukesha County if Scott Walker loses--followed by an appeal to the State Court of Appeals--and eventually on to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

As the recall recount goes to the high court, both parties will be howling for certain justices on the "other side" recuse themselves to guarantee a majority that would rule in their favor.  Maybe the Justices could get into fistfights again--just to further spice things up.  And when nobody likes their ruling--it could go into the Federal Courts for another two or three rounds of appeals.

Meanwhile, as the court challenges drag on, Wisconsinites are left wondering just what the hell is going on.  Businesses refuse to expand or hire due to the uncertainty--and the economy continues to lag.  Maybe the public sector unions can take a few dozen days off to protest everywhere everyday as well.

And finally, after months and months and months of all out chaos--a court somewhere issues the final ruling and declares a final winner--just in time for the 2014 gubernatorial race to begin.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Just Not Feeling It

I have to give some credit to political forces at work to suppress participation in the process--they actually have me thinking about skipping an election.  Anyone who knows me knows how much I enjoy the political process--and how much I like voting.  But today, I am just not feeling it.

I almost feel like that by going out to vote in a totally un-neccessary primary, I'm giving some tacit endorsement of the effort that went into creating it.  I voted in this race less than two years ago--and I hired that guy for a four year gig.  Nobody said there would be a mid-term re-examination of that decision--not that I would change my mind anyway.

And then there is the "strategy" that maybe I should cross over and vote in the other race.  Rush Limbaugh called it "Operation Chaos" back in 2008--encouraging his listeners to go out and vote for Hillary Clinton so that Barack Obama would have to continue to spend campaign funds on the primary process--instead of stockpiling it for the general election.  How did that work out?

Besides, a vote is not part of some political game.  I take my ballot selections very seriously.  I don't pick the "lesser of two evils" or "the candidate that will do the least damage" as a compromise.  In fact, there were a number of races in the April elections where I didn't vote for a single candidate--the reasons for that are listed in previous "My Two Cents".  If you don't earn it--you don't get it from me.

Perhaps today's primary just reminds me that we are only at the halfway mark of this recall process.  If you though the TV ads, the phone calls and the fliers in the mail were annoying to this point--you ain't seen nothing yet.  Governor Walker has 25-million dollars to spend--and if Kathleen Falk somehow pulls off a miracle win today, the public sector unions pulling her strings will come in with a bunch of cash as well.  Good thing these recalls will be done before the Presidential election kicks into high gear--or we may have to cancel all regular radio and TV programming just to run all of the ads.

So I will try to work up the enthusiasm to head to the polls today if for no other reason to keep my 18-year streak of never missing an election intact.

Monday, May 7, 2012

This Should Be Interesting

Fiscal Conservatism took a beating in Europe over the weekend.  The Presidential election in France saw the victory of the Socialist candidate--while voters in Greece swept out the Parliament that supported the country's bailout by the European Central Bank.  If the European Debt Crisis was a Hollywood Western, the passengers would have just shot John Wayne while he tried to stop the out-of-control stagecoach from plunging over the cliff.

In Greece, voters have handed over 20% of the seats in their Parliament to Neo-Nazis and Communists--simply because they opposed the austerity measures placed on the country by Germany and the other countries that are funding the bailout just to keep the Greek Government afloat.  The newly-elected representative's plans for solving the debt crisis?  They don't have one--they just don't like the plan in place and they aren't going to abide by its rules.  And since it appears no one else in that government has the guts to do the right thing, we can expect Greece to default on its debt--further deepening the EuroZone crisis--and likely getting kicked out of the Zone altogether.  Then the Greeks can look forward to handing over a one-billion Drachma note to the waiter to purchase their shot-glassful of Ouzo.

France will be even more interesting to watch.  Their new President campaigned on a platform of "Tax the Rich" and raising taxes on corporations.  Does that sound familiar?  Also, more government jobs and perservation of the social programs that bankrupted the economy there as well.  Again, political positioning statements we here in the US seem to be hearing a lot this year as well.  I'm trying to find some hope in the so-called "experts" quoted in the Sunday columns that economic realities will force the new French President to actually be more "moderate" in the way he governs--but that remains to be seen.

Now all of this would be good news for the US, as the dollar would gain value against the Euro-as countries beg for the printing presses in Brussels to be turned on again to pay for the decisions of the voters this weekend--but we are printing our currency even faster than them.  To go back to the Hollywood Western analogy again--our stagecoach captain is chasing after the other wagon shouting "We need to go where they are going!!"

Friday, May 4, 2012

Poor Julia....No, Poor Us

An old friend of mine posted a link on Twitter yesterday to a propaganda piece from President Obama's campaign website called "The Life of Julia"--which details how a woman's life is affected by policies adopted by the current administration--and how her life would be a living hell if Mitt Romney is elected:

Personally, I think this little slide show rivals the best propaganda ever produced in the heydey of Stalin or Kim Jong Il--namely, that without the Supreme Leader (or in this case President Obama and his social programs) LIFE AS WE KNOW IT WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE!!

The "show" starts as Julia is Age 3 and Under President Obama, Julia is enrolled in a Head Start Program to get her ready for school.  Julia's parents are probably not going to want to watch this presentation because they are going to angry at their portrayal as know-nothings and do-nothings.  It starts right here with being totally incapable of reading to their child or going through their ABC's.

At Age 18 Julia and her family Qualify for the President Obama's Opportunity Tax Credit and a Pell Grant.  Again, Julia's parents have failed her by not saving a single penny for her college education.  Fortunately, the President is picking up the ball and running with it.

At Age 23 Julia starts looking for a job and Because of steps like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, she will be able to stand up for her right to equal pay.  Julia apparently applied to be a manager at WalMart which has been found guilty of gender pay discrimination--or as an employee at the Obama White House--where CNBC found women ARE paid less than their male counterparts:

At Age 25 Julia graduates and Since President Obama capped student loan payments and kept interest rates low she can afford to make her monthly payments.  Again, if Julia's parents had saved a few bucks, those student loans wouldn't be so big.  Julia apparently can't budget her money either to take into account the loan payments.

At Age 27, Julia is a young professional and Thanks to ObamaCare her health insurance is required to cover birth control--letting Julia focus on work rather than her health.  You know, the health "threat" of pregnancy is 100% preventable--without any pills--or government mandate.

At Ages 65 and 67, Julia enrolls in Medicare and begins collecting Social Security and Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to end Medicare and Social Security as we know it--cutting Julia's benefits by 40%. Amazingly, despite saving on student loan rates, getting the "same salary as a man" and not having to pay for birth control, Julia still has not been able to save enough money through her working career to ensure her retirement without relying on the two most expensive government social programs (until ObamaCare goes into full effect).  Where did all that money go?  I know!  Those evil Wall Street Fat Cats stole it by not paying their "fair share" of taxes!!

The only thing missing from this little presentation is President Obama clutching poor Julia to his bosom as angels blow trumpets and place laurels on his head.  Thank you Dear Leader, without you and the Government we wouldn't be able to live!!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Numbers Game

Those of you averse to change may want to cover your ears--it sounds like Highway 41 won't be 41 after it becomes an interstate in a couple of years.  We had a news conference hosted by the DOT yesterday to talk about raising weight limits for trucks once the conversion takes place in 2014--when a far more interesting topic came up.

DOT officials--while saying nothing is set yet--admitted that Interstate 41 likely won't be the designation for the stretch running from Milwaukee to Green Bay.  The more likely options will be I-443 or I-694--or possibly I-43B.  All of those designations are kind of an insult if you ask me--as they make the main thoroughfare in the Fox Valley sound like an airport spur or a bypass. 

You would think that going from Highway 41 to Interstate 41 would be a no-brainer--but it's not even the State of Wisconsin's decision to make.  A bureaucratic entity in Washington DC known as the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials will make the decision.  And you know the more levels of government involved in making a decision, the less likely an intelligent choice will be made.

To be fair, AASHTO does have a set of guidelines that it has to use.  The lowest Interstate numbers are used in the west--with the higher numbers in the east.  North-South Interstates get odd numbers--East-West routes get even numbers.  Senator Herb Kohl suggested I-12 yesterday--in honor of Aaron Rogers.  Too bad Wisconsin would have to be moved into the Rocky Mountains and turned on its side to get that low-number, east-west designation.  (And as owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, shouldn't the Senator have suggested I-33 in honor of Kareem Abdul Jabbar?  C'mon--no wonder the state doesn't give two rat's behinds about the Bucks if the owner doesn't even think about them!)

I can already imagine the chaos that will ensue if somthing other than I-41 is ultimately chosen.  People living along the corridor will continue to give people directions like "take 41 North to exit whatever"--leading to mass confusion as people can't seem to find a "Highway 41" anywhere.  Eventually, the term "Highway 41" will become a dividing line between generations--kind of like the old-timers in Oshkosh that call it the "Fly-In" instead of "EAA Airventure". 

We all know that change is inevitable--and so is everyone complaining about it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Another Disaster For the New Media

The so-called "New Media" suffered another black eye this week.  ESPN finds itself the target of ridicule after admitting that a woman it featured as a blogger on its website may not actually exist.

"Sarah Phillips" wrote a column for the ESPN Playbook page that described her experiences in sports betting and that offered gambling tips.  "She" came to ESPN from a dedicated gambling website she was first just a poster on their chat boards--and then was hired to write a regular column.

The whole thing came apart last week after posts on the ESPN site began to question if the attractive, 20-something woman portraying herself as "Sarah Phillips" was actually real--or if the column was being ghost-written (likely by a homely, degenerate man in his mid-50's with no hair and a few teeth missing).  As the clamor grew for "Sarah Phillips" to reveal herself, ESPN had to admit that they had never actually met face-to-face with their writer--and that they could not confirm she was who she said she was.

It turns out, that never actually met "Sarah Phillips" before they hired her to blog for them either.  So amazingly, someone whom no one has ever seen goes from nobody to a contributor to a website run by the self-proclaimed "Worldwide Leader In Sports" in a few short years--collecting paycheck after paycheck along the way--without a single background or resume check.  Welcome to what passes for "Journalism" in the internet age.

You might find it ironic that I choose to attack another blogger in a blog--but I put this very same content out there every morning on WOSH Radio at 6:30 am.  And the people that are criticized or praised in this column I see face-to-face and talk to on the phone about the very issues I discuss.  No nom-de-plumes here, no anonymous reports.  Things we should still consider when looking for sources of news and information--even in this "New Media Era".

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Unaffordable College Education

There has been a lot of talk recently about how a college education is now "unaffordable".  Students are forced to take out tens (and sometimes hundreds) of thousands of dollars in loans just to get a degree that no longer guarantees them a job upon graduation.  And to expect them to repay that?  Well that just isn't "fair".

I haven't priced out college lately, so I did a little research last night and found that the University of Wisconsin-Madison charges $4,835.52 per semester tution for a student taking 12 to 18 credits (the average class load).  Add onto that $8,024 for housing and food plan and you get an annual cost of $17,694.64.  And that doesn't include books and lab fees.  Multiply that by the five years it takes the average student to graduate and you get $88,473.20.  Indeed, a very expensive investment.  And this is actually way low--because no self-respecting upper-classman would stay in the dorms, so you can add another 30% to the cost of room and board for the last three years to live off-campus.

But being a bargain shopper, I explored some of the lower-cost alternatives.  The state has dozens of two-year UW campuses spread out throughout the state--most within an hour's drive of nearly all residents.  Students attending UW Fox Valley in Menasha for instance, pay $2,387.45 for the same credit load as those kids at UW Madison--and the courses count the same toward your degree.  And since those students can stay at home with Mom and Dad--their two year cost for college would be $9,549.80.

Anyone within driving range of UW Fox--or UW Fond du Lac--could probably handle the daily commute to UW Oshkosh to earn their Bachelors degree as well--while continuing to live with Mom and Dad.  The 12-18 credit tuition per semester at UWO is $3,500.62--meaning three years of classes there will set you back $21,003.72.  Add that to the UW Fox bill and you come up with a Bachelors degree for $30,553.52. 

While that still sounds like alot of money (and it is in one lump sum)--consider the student who works 25-hours a week at a part-time job making minimum wage of $7.25 an hour will earn $47,125 (before taxes) over that same five year period.  More than enough to cover the tuition, books and gas for the daily commute five days a week.

The difference between the scenarios above is a savings of $57,919.68.  I'll grant you, the SuperSaver option doesn't include fall Saturdays at Camp Randall Stadium, kegger parties, the Mifflin Street Block Party or Spring Breaks in Cancun and Panama City--you know the "College Experience" that is so important to kids nowadays.  But it does include the College Degree that employers will be looking for.  And WITHOUT the tens of thousands of dollars in debt.