Friday, June 29, 2012

Well Played, Chief Justice, Well Played

While most fiscal conservatives are looking to crucify Chief Justice John Roberts this morning for casting the deciding vote in the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision to uphold the all of the provisions in the Healthcare Reform Law, I would like to congratulate him on his creativity, his craftiness and his cunning.

It took a very creative legal mind to find authority in the Constitution to uphold the Individual Mandate.  Nobody even considered that Congress would have the right to enforce the mandate under its power to collect taxes.  The Solicitor General who argued the case on behalf of the Obama Administration didn't even make that argument before the High Court!  And why would he?  Didn't the President and all the Congressional Democrats spend an entire year telling everyone that the "penalty" for not having health insurance was NOT A TAX?!?!  Ironic isn't it, that the fact that it is a new tax actually saved the mandate in the end.

And Chief Justice Roberts is a crafty fellow as well.  He also wrote into the decision that while Congress can force states to take more money for the expansion of Medicaid programs--it cannot penalize states that fail to fully comply, by taking away Medicaid funding.  In that provision, the Chief Justice is giving "Red State" governors who realize that the money from Washington won't come within the width of the Pacific Ocean of covering the added expense of more Medicaid enrollees some protection.  Unlike the Federal Government, states can't operate trillions of dollars in the red--or print more money to pay their bills--so Robert's ruling should spare taxpayers monster state tax increases to comply with all facets of the law.

And finally, Chief Justice Roberts showed great cunning by punting the ultimate decision on whether all of the Healthcare Reform Bill is actually going to take effect.  I mean, who wants to be known as the "Guy Who Killed Millions Of Uninsured Americans"?  Instead, the Chief Justice chose to throw it back in the lap of American voters--who can now use the 2012 elections as a referendum they really didn't get before this bill was passed. 

And this time around, we know that the mandate is--by law--a new health care tax--and Chief Justice Roberts is the man who put that hairshirt on President Obama to wear.  Unfortunately for Republican, their nominee is wearing the same hairshirt (he preferred to call his individual mandate "penalty" a "fee" in Massachussetts.  However, I'm sure the GOP will have plenty of commercials ready to go this fall pointing out that Tammy Baldwin "voted in favor of the new Health Care Tax" or that she "supported the largest tax increase in American history--during one of the worst recessions in American history".  The guys at Politi-Fact must be going nuts over this--because now they have to give all of those ads a "True" rating.  After all, if it wasn't a tax, it wouldn't be constitutional!

So well played, Chief Justice Roberts.  Well played.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bold Predictions

At 9:00 this morning the Supreme Court will issue its ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.  We'll have live coverage of the decision from ABC News here on WOSH.  Here are some bold predictions...........

--The Supreme Court will overturn only the "individual mandate" provision in the act.  As I've mentioned before, nowhere in the Constitution is Congress given the power to require all citizens to purchase a product.  Everything else in the new law appears to be covered by the Commerce Clause and will be found constitutional.

--Both sides will declare "victory".  Republicans will say Americans have been saved from an "over-reaching federal government"--and that they will now work to repeal the rest of the law.  Democrats will say "99% of the law" was upheld--and that they will now work to find some other way to require the purchase of health insurance.

--Everyone will protest.  The Tea Party folks will believe the ruling keeps the US on the path to financial ruin.  The liberals will claim we will soon be stepping over the piles of dead bodies of those who died because they were "denied" health care.

--There will be calls to do away with the Supreme Court.  My Twitter time line is already peppered with tweets about how "It's unfair that five people can undo the will the millions" and "how can unelected judges overrule our elected representatives?"  To those who feel that way, let me point you to the Constitution--which clearly spells out the seperation of powers in our representative democracy.  If you don't like the rules that allowed us to become the greatest nation on earth, start work on your own Constitution --and building your own army, because those of us who appreciate the current system will do anything to defend it.

--Wall Street will see a positive spike.  The financial types know the real impact of the Affordable Care Act on the economy.  Reassurance that at least some of the requirements are being dropped will be seen as a major positive for all employers in the US.

--Anyone who is sick or injured can go to a doctor or a hospital to receive medical care.  As before the ACA, hospitals and doctors will not be turning away patients facing life-threatening conditions.  You want your tramp stamp tattoo removed for free--well, you will probably be out of luck.

--America will move on.  If the whole law is upheld, things will be more expensive--but eventually we will learn to live with that.  If the whole thing is thrown out, Medicaid and Medicare programs will still be available to the truly needy.  We will adjust--just like we adjusted to having a society with abortion and no limits on political contributions from corporations.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Starting All Over Again

If you could redesign the city of Oshkosh, how would you lay it out?  I was thinking about this last night as the City Council heard from people complaining about how construction of a CVS Pharmacy was going to "ruin their neighborhood".  (Nevermind that their "neighborhood" includes an interstate frontage road where commercial development is to be expected.)  When the Chicago fire destroyed much of that city, it was seen as a major disaster.  But when looked at through the prism of history, the fire was actually a benefit to Chicago--as it gave planners a "clean slate" to better organize development from that point forward.  So if Oshkosh was wiped out and had to be rebuilt, where would you put everything?

The first area to consider would have to be the riverfront.  I think it's safe to say that all of the manufacturing plants would be moved out to industrial parks west of Highway 41 and north and south of the current city limits.  That way, they could be replaced by senior living apartments, assisted living centers and riverfront condos.  We could move the convention center and hotel over to the spot where the WalMart used to stand so it could have the much-needed interstate access and proximity to the airport as well.  That space could then be used for senior living apartments, assisted living centers and waterfront condos.  And I'm afraid we would probably lose Lakeshore Golf Course--as that property is far more valuable for use as senior living apartments, assisted living centers and waterfront condos.

We could return Main Street to a residential district, relocating the boutiques to a mini-mall out by the interstate where people could actually find them and park near them.  All of the historic buildings could be converted to senior living apartments, assisted living centers and heart of the city condos.

The Oshkosh School District could save millions by building just the number of elementary schools that are actually needed to serve the modern population of children.  And the high schools could be relocated to provide more balanced enrollment at both.

We could also realign the railroad line that runs through the city--putting it farther to the west--so trains don't rumble through neighborhoods in the middle of the night--and so lakefront property south of the river can actually be developed into senior living apartments, assisted living centers and waterfront condos.

And based on the complaints I saw last night, we can remove all of those "nuisance" businesses located in existing neighborhoods--creating all that traffic and noise and light.  Gone would be the corner bars and restaurants like Jansen's or Mahoney's.  No more gas stations and convenience stores where people live--those should be out by the all the stores on the frontage road.  Granted, that will make them less 'convenient"--but you don't want anyone encroaching on your serenity.

That redesigned Oshkosh would be a veritable "Utopia"--where neighborhoods are preserved and no one is inconvenienced by modern development or people driving down their streets.  Everything would be perfect....well, until the DOT comes in and puts roundabouts everywhere.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

We've Seen This All Before

Before the Election of 2008, I predicted that we would not be electing the next Ronald Reagan--as some of the news channel talking heads were promoting--but rather that we would be electing the next Jimmy Carter, regardless of who won between Barrack Obama and John McCain.  And for the most part, President Obama has done a good job of proving me correct: prolonged unemployment, deterioration of America's industrial base, high gas and energy prices and a lowering of the US status as a global superpower.  The only thing we are missing as we head into the 2012 elections is a hostage crisis.

But what I couldn't foresee was that President Obama would think that he is actually the next Andrew Jackson.  Presidential scholars consider the Jackson to have expanded the powers of the Presidency through executive actions more than any Commander in Chief before or since.

Jackson single-handedly brought down the Second Bank of the United States.  He initially revoked the Bank's charter through veto--but Congress was able to override it.  So "Old Hickory" just waited until Congress went into its summer recess and then he withdrew all of the Treasury's funds from the bank and put it into private institutions around the country--basically bankrupting the Bank of the US and putting it out of business.  (Which is why I find it ironic that Jackson is featured on the 20-dollar bill to this day.)

Jackson also put the US Supreme Court in its place as well.  After the US purchased Florida from the Spanish, Americans poured into the new territory to grab up any and all available land.  When local Indian tribes refused to give up their settlements, President Jackson issued a Federal order forcing them to be relocated to the Indian Territory (now known as Oklahoma).  Rather than take up arms against the Whites, the Five Tribes took the Federal Government to court--claiming that Jackson had overstepped his authority in ordering their ouster.  The US Supreme Court ultimately sided with the Tribes and allowed them to stay.

Jackson directly disobeyed that ruling, sending in Federal troops to force out the Tribes and issuing his famous statement: "(Chief Justice) John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it!"  What ensued was the infamous "Trail of Tears" disaster--where tens of thousands of Tribe members died during their forced relocation.  It was the most egregious abuse of Presidential power until another Democrat--Franklin Roosevelt--ordered the roundup and internment of Japanese-Americans in the early days of World War II.

So Republicans--and Democrats like Jimmy Carter (oh the irony!) and Russ Feingold--decrying President Obama operating outside the realm of the Constitution need to keep in mind:  it could be (slightly) worse.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Missing Some Key Details

Our email inbox here at WOSH News has been inundated with press releases in advance of the Supreme Court's ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act this week.  Lawmakers, political parties, advocacy groups and even the White House are flooding the media with their side of the story.

A lot of the releases include statistics.  Numbers like how many under-employed 25-year olds who moved back home after college were added to their parents' health insurance policies since that provision of the ACA went into effect.  And how many people who had been unable to get mainstream insurance due to pre-existing conditions are now covered by their employers.  And even the tens of thousands of people without insurance who died "prematurely" (as opposed to the tens of MILLIONS who die "prematurely" every year who do have health insurance, I guess).  For some reason, nobody has all the same numbers.  Some folks might want to get together and decide which figures are going to be the "official numbers" for propaganda use from here on out.

While the press releases are "informational", even the longest of them is still missing some very key details.  I am yet to see one that includes the cost to policy holders to take on all of these new non-contributing and extremely expensive new members of the risk pool.  (Here at the Radio Ranch, those of us on the fiscally-responsible High Deductible/Health Savings Account plan didn't see a premium increase--but those on the standard plan did see a $24/month rate increase--meaning the ACA is costing them an additional $288 a year.)  Also missing from the releases are the number of companies that will choose to pay the $5000 per employee "penalty" for failing to provide health insurance to employees--which would not come close to covering the actual expense of those dropped workers enrolling in the only other option--a government-provided health care plan.

But the most glaring omissions from each and every "pro-ACA" media release is a citation of a Constitutional article or amendment that proves the "individual mandate"--the heart of the law--is legal.  You would think that so many groups--not to mention the White House--would be able to come up with some passage that says "Yes, Congress can require every single person to buy something--without any exception--and penalize you if you fail to do so."  Previous legal minds found some basis in the Constitution to legalize abortion and warrantless wire taps of citizens--so a "you must purchase health insurance" clause has to be in there right?

I fully expect the Supreme Court to uphold at least some tenets of the Affordable Care Act, given Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce (even though health insurance cannot legally be sold across state lines)--so the freeloader 20-somethings and the pre-existing condition provisions will likely remain in place.  But the individual mandate will--and should--be struck down.  Plain and simple, it's just not Constitutional--no matter how good it makes some people feel.

Friday, June 22, 2012

History--Good and Bad

As I have mentioned before, I love history.  I believe that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.  And it's that love of history that has me excited about one thing going on this weekend--and not so thrilled with something else.

I can't wait to get to the Paine Arts Center and Gardens to check out the new Ansel Adams exhibition.  Adams is one of my favorite photographers--as he chose to make the grandeur of America's landscapes as his nearly-exclusive focus.  I've seen many of his pictures on-line and in books--but it will be great to see tha actual prints up close and in person.  Photography is far more appealing to me than paintings--since the camera lens provides a less-filtered view of the world than a painter's canvass.  And the use of black and white film just adds to the stark contrast between the elements in many of the pictures.

What's more, it was Adams' pictures that made Americans realize just how spectacular their country was--and how important it would be to set aside those areas for protection.  Would Yosemite be filled with Starbucks and McDonald's now if we hadn't come to that realization?  Would Old Faithful be in the atrium of a Hilton Hotel?  Would the Grand Canyon be surrounded by strip malls and amusement parks?  Maybe not--but it's nice to know that we won't have to ever worry about that.

On the other end of the historical spectrum you have the opening today of Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter.  While Hollywood is certainly allowed artistic license in the way it protrays history (e.g.: none of the soldiers portrayed in Saving Private Ryan actually existed) this is just ludicrous.  To spare you the need to see it, historians "discover" a secret journal kept by President Lincoln detailing his mother's murder by vampires--and his "second life" hunting down and killing the living dead.

Yes, I understand that this is a farce--and those of us with an ounce of common sense and historic knowledge will realize that.  But you know that there will be a percentage of Americans who will actually believe this junk as some kind of fact.  I'm sure somebody is ready to pitch "Presidential Secret Lives" to the History Channel if this movie is a big hit.  They could air it between episodes of those incredibly "educational" shows Ancient Aliens and Swamp People.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

How We Got Here

I found it ironic that the announcement that there was finally going to be a playoff in college football (albeit a playoff that includes too few schools and leaves the pointless bowl structure in place) came almost 40 years to the day of the event that forever changed the nature of the game.  I'm talking about June 23rd, 1972--when President Nixon signed into law Title IX--a measure guaranteeing equal access for women to educational opportunities.

After several court rulings, it was found that Title IX didn't just apply to graduate school enrollments and the number of females in the campus workforce--but that it also applied to the number of student-athletes on scholarship.  That meant universities had to offer prorportionately "fair" numbers of sports to both men and women.  No longer could university presidents and athletic directors hide behind the old "We can't afford to have a women's basketball team" excuse.  From that point on, football would have to pay for not only its own 85-scholarships, coaching staff, travel and training facilities--but also the scholarships, coaches, travel and facilities of women's gymnastics, softball, crew, track and field and cross country--sports with no hope of ever being self-funding.

Gone were the simple goals for a football coach of beating your in-state rival and maybe going to a bowl game every few years.  The new goal: generate as much revenue as possible--by putting the maximum number of butts in the seats every Saturday afternoon in the fall.

Everything in college football is now about chasing the almighty dollar.  100,000+ seat stadiums, recruiting violations to get the best players,  the SMU "Death Penalty", 12-game regular seasons (with eight of those games at home against lesser opponents--rather than playing other big-time programs), conferences with their own TV networks, 10 teams playing in the Big 12, 12 teams playing in the Big 10, Texas Christian and Boise State playing in the Big East, conference playoff games, the Bell Helicopters Military Bowl on ESPN and ultimately the Bowl Championship Series.  Billions of dollars of revenue based on what is supposed to be an extra-curricular activity.

And despite all that cash coming in, just 69 Football Bowl Subdivision athletic departments finished in the black in 2010.  The average loss for all schools in Division 1 that year was nine-million dollars.  In this new era of government austerity, such losses at major public universities become more difficult to justify.

That's why it should come as no surprise that this new "playoff system" is not in the control of the NCAA--like every other intercollegiate sport--but is instead still controlled by the BCS and it's consortium of conferences and university presidents.  It's still all about the cash, homey.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

It's Going To Be Close

I think it will be awhile before we see any "landslide" victories in elections again.  Gone are the days of Ronald Reagan winning 48-states or George HW Bush capturing 40-states.  And it's not so much the actions of the two political parties in "rallying support" or "identifying key demographics" in their campaign efforts.  The real cause can be found in numbers put together by the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago--showing that 49.1% of US households are getting some kind of government benefits.

That is up from just 30% of households being on the dole back in 1983--and up from 44.4% at the start of President Obama's administration.  There are certain demographic factors that contribute to that increase.  We are living longer--so people are staying on Social Security and Medicare longer.  But there have certainly been political moves to push that number higher as well--such as expansion of Medicaid programs, the food stamps program and extension of unemployment benefits.

And that increase has been a big factor in the resurgence of the Democratic Party since the 1980's.  Scare tactics like "Republicans want to cut Social Security and Medicare" or "Republicans want to take away your health care benefits" don't work if a large population isn't receiving Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.  Dependence breeds political support. 

The left is trying to portray this election cycle as a "battle" between the "haves and the have nots".  But it's clearly more of a showdown between the "givers and the getters".  And once the balance goes to the "getters", the "givers" would face an almost impossible task of ever getting out from under that burden.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Beer USA

One of the drawbacks to watching games only from the press box now is that I don't get to play "Guess the Attendance" on the scoreboard--because they give us the number before it is posted for the crowd.  But today, let's play a different version of that game by guessing the attendance at Country USA in Oshkosh if beer wasn't served on the grounds.

I bring this up not only because the country music fesitval starts today but also because of what happened with Midwest Fest and the Oshkosh Common Council last week.  The organizers of the first year washed-up-Rock-music-and-biker-rally at the Sunnyview Expo Center were horrified to find out just days before the event started last Friday that they were only allowed to sell beer until 11:00 pm.  That led to a last-minute plea to serve until 2:00 or 2:30 am--because selling beer is actually the only way a festival like that makes any money.  I still laugh when I think of the director telling the Council that his customers would be "angry and confused" if they couldn't drink until Eddie Money wrapped up his show at midnight.

So back to my original question:  How many people do you think would show up for Country USA if booze wasn't available on the grounds?  Current attendance estimates are 160-thousand people.  I'd bet they would be lucky to get 50-thousand over the entire five-days--even with the "Million Dollar Lineup".  I estimate that because there seems to a large contingent of attendees who couldn't care less about country music.  I've heard from several guys that I know HATE country--but are going because "it's crawling with drunk chicks".  There's even a few guys who are camping out there--but not buying tickets.  That's because they just set up in the campgrounds--drink all week and yell over the fence for women to come join them. 

Drying out Country USA would probably greatly lower the need for all of those "security" measures as well.  I give the folks at Starshow Presents a lot of credit, they are going to great lengths to try and keep people dead set on killing themselves from succeeding.  The "security wristband" for those that park or camp off-site may be unpopular--but at least the money is being used for something.  This year, there will be floodlights set up along Washburn heading away from the grounds in hopes of cutting down on the number of drunks walking in the street being run over by drunks driving down the street.  And the new higher barricades along Highway 41 will hopefully deter the "I'm just going to a take a shortcut' guys from walking across the expressway to their campsite on the other side.

So let's hope our visitors this week have fun but keep it safer than in recent years.  There is a stage out there--not just a beer tent.

Monday, June 18, 2012

What's In a Word?

President Obama's executive order on Friday establishing his "Dream Act" without Congressional approval has refired a debate within the world of journalism.  It surrounds how to refer to those who will no longer face deportation as part of the program.

The Associated Press Stylebook, the "Bible" of newswriting, says those young people are "illegal immigrants"--since they are not in the country legally.  But some groups--like the Poynter Institute at the Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism--say the term "illegal" is "unfair" to those people--and that the term "undocumented" should be the accepted norm....

Using the word ‘illegal’ to describe an immigrant puts journalists in the position of being judge and jury ... It casts all immigration cases as black and white: legal or illegal. That leaves little room for this most complicated law’s nuances.

Some at Poynter go so far as to compare "illegal immigrant" to the "N-word".........
History is on our side ... The n-word and dehumanizing terms against lots of groups of people have been challenged and there has always at first been resistance.
What the folks at Poynter seem to be missing is that anyone who is in the country legally--or "with documentation" as they prefer--will derive ZERO BENEFIT from the Dream Act!  They already have work visas.  They already have a path to citizenship.  They are NOT BEING DEPORTED!  The Dream Act specifically covers those who are in the country ILLEGALLY!  And to not make that differentiation is not only inaccurate--but it's another slap in the face of those who rely on us for information on what is going on in the world around us.
What's next?  Drug dealers referred to "undocumented pharmacists"?  Molesting children referred to as "horseplay"? 
It is most unfortunate that the parents of these folks chose to come here in ways that are outside how the vast majority of our ancestors choose to take when they came to the US.  And it is an anomoly that the child of someone who snuck into the country born on US soil is automatically a citizen.  But to pretend that the FACT that a person is within our borders without permission is still a FACT.  And trying to use a different term for that still won't make it go away.

Friday, June 15, 2012

It's All My Fault

The latest unemployment numbers show the economy is still listless and soft.  First time jobless claims were up again last week and the number of jobs "created" last month were well below what the "experts" were expecting.  (We obviously need different "experts" as they are always "surprised" by how few or how many jobs are created EVERY SINGLE MONTH!!).  And the question is being asked more and more:  Where are the jobs?

We had the Stimulus, we've given businesses tax breaks and yet, few if any companies are hiring.  Well now, economists think they have figured it out:  You and I aren't spending enough.  Lack of demand is the new reason we aren't getting out of this recession (well, that and former President George W Bush).  Too many people are paying off their debt or socking their money away for possible emergencies--instead of blowing every single penny they get (plus taking on additional debt) like we used to do in the "old economy".

This is music to the ears of the Keynsian Economists at the White House.  They can point to these studies and say "This is where the government needs to step in and increase it's spending to replace what John and Joan Public isn't spending.  States and cities need to hire more teachers--even if there are fewer kids to teach--and hire more police officers--even if crime numbers are down--and we need to add more firefighters--even if there aren't more homes and buisinesses to protect."

And that is the basis of the President's jobs bill:  Take on more Federal debt to artificially increase demand until the rest of us "come out of our caves" and join the recovery.  The only problems are that the increased debt has to be paid back somewhere in the future--and at a higher rate than what was borrowed to "stimulate" the economy.  That will mean higher income taxes--and less money to spend in the future.  And the states, cities and school districts taking on the additional staff have to cover the salaries and benefits after the federal funds come to an end.  That will mean higher state income and local property taxes--and again, less money to keep the economy rolling in future.

So I guess those of us practicing sound personal finance practices have a choice to make:  Spend a little bit more now--or be made to pay even more later.  Either way, it will still be our fault that everybody else can't get everything they want.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Easy Rider

The US Open tees off today at the Olympic Club in San Francisco this morning.  Among those competing in "Golf's Toughest Test" this year is Casey Martin.  If the name sounds vaguely familiar to non-golf fans, Martin is the player that successfully sued the United States Golf Association (and later the PGA TOUR) under the Americans With Disabilities Act to ride in a golf cart during competitive rounds the last time the Open was held at Olympic.  Martin was born with a congenital leg condition that make walking any distance extremely painful--but still allows him to swing a golf club at a very high level.

Many of the big names in golf came out against Martin in his original quest to use the cart.  Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer testified in support of the sport's governing bodies, telling the court that allowing Martin to ride would "threaten the integrity of the game".  The main concern at the time was that if Casey was allowed to ride, then any touring pro with a stiff back or a sore knee would also want a cart.  Soon you would have a quarter of the field riding--while the rest walked and the competitive balance of the sport would be ruined.

As it has turned out Casey Martin is still the ONLY player to ever request a cart for competitive play.  That despite numerous players suffering career threatening and career-ending back and leg injuries since 1999.  If there was ever a player that should have requested a cart, it's Tiger Woods during the 2008 US Open when he played 90 holes ON A BROKEN LEG--and won the tournament!!

I still believe that Casey Martin should not be allowed to ride.  I think that walking is an integral part of the game--and that not having to put in the five or six miles up and down the steep hills of Olympic Club, Martin is getting an unfair advantage over the rest of the field.  (I still have to grit my teeth when I see guys I'm playing against in weekend tournaments riding--and I hate that the Wisconsin Golf Association requires us to ride in nearly all of the tournaments they put on.  If you can't walk--you can't play)  But I have also come to accept that the court decision is never going to change--and that it's long-lasting impact on the sport has minimal at best.

If anything, the Casey Martin case has shown us that we need to be a little less reactionary sometimes--and let things play out before we start talking about how things have been "ruined" by a little change.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The End of the Trail

In a referendum that got surprisingly little national attention, the residents of North Dakota have given their state university permission to drop its "Fighting Sioux" mascot.  Two-thirds of voters supported a measure yesterday that leaves in place a legislative bill letting UND drop the nickname and find something else.  The measure had been put on the ballot by staunch defenders of the mascot as a last ditch effort to "Save the Sioux".

While the mascot defenders may cry foul today and bemoan the further encroachment of political correctness in our society--the time has come for them to also accept defeat.  This directive to drop the "Fightnig Sioux" name didn't come from the NCAA, from a University President, from a self-appointed faculty committee, from self-appointed experts on "the social and psychological effects of Native American mascots on Indigenous Peoples", from a campus activist group, or from a single-party majority of the State Legislature.  This time the directive came--loudly and clearly--from The People.  How many other schools never got this opportunity to hear directly from those who actually "own it"?

Does that mean North Dakotans buy into the PC line about Indian mascots?  Probably not.  They are more likely just fed up with the amount of time, effort and money tied up in the non-stop debate over the issue.  Tuesday's vote shows that regardless of how they feel about the team nickname, they are ready to move on to more pressing issues.

The vote is a double-edged sword for the University of North Dakota itself.  On the one hand, the "team formerly known as the Fighting Sioux" can once again host NCAA playoff and championship games.  The school bookstore will see a run on anything bearing the beautiful Indianhead mascot--and the subsequent "student approved" logo after that.  And the never-ending legal fees will finally stop.  But on the other hand, the change will also carry a huge cost. 

Ralph Englestad arena--like the Kohl Center in Madison--was a gift to the University from a very wealthy donor who wanted his name on it.  Ralph was also a huge supporter of the Sioux nickname--so much so that it was rumored that if the university ever changed it, he would take his building back and not let the school use it anymore.  He also went to great expense to make sure that the Indianhead logo is EVERYWHERE in the arena.  It's carved into the exterior facade.  It's imprinted on the interior walls.  It is inlaid in all the floors on the concourse.  And every row of seats features cast images of the Sioux logo on both ends.  I've never seen a cost estimate on what it will take to remove all of the Indianheads--but I'm guessing it will be in the millions.

Supporters of the Sioux mascot may have reached their "Little Big Horn" (okay--wrong state)--but it appears their opponents will be celebrating a Pirrhyc Victory.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Line 'Em Up

Last night, we got to witness one of my favorite traditions.  No, not the deserved booing of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (who I continue to maintain actually hates hockey and is doing everything in his power to destroy the league) and not the carrying around of the Stanley Cup like it was the Holy Grail (it's actually much more important than the Grail).  I'm talking about the handshake line that concludes the battle between the two teams.

I love how men--who until just a few seconds ago were doing everything in their power to beat the hell out of their opponents--put off their celebration (or their weeping) to take time to show respect to their rivals.  And if you watch closely, you see this isn't the "good game, good game, good game" sham of a handshake line that we see in youth sports nowadays.  There is actual emotion involved, with hugs and compliments and heartfelt condolances whispered in ears.

The great thing is that "The Line" isn't required.  The NHL doesn't have a rule stating the two teams must congratulate each other at the end of a series.  Players could just skate off the ice to the locker rooms if they wanted--but that would be treated as such an affront to the honor of the game and to your fellow competitors that such an action would be soundly derided by everyone.

I'll be thinking about "The Line" as I hear about the "Brat Summit" in Madison today.  While it sounds like a "good start" to mending fences--brining everyone together in a less-stressful setting to "talk about our differences"--you know it's going to end up like a middle school dance, with all the Republicans on one side of the yard and all the Democrats on the other side and nobody wanting to look like a "loser" by going over to talk to the "enemy".  Plus, we have members of both parties already boycotting the event because they don't like what somebody else on the other side said.

So, before anyone goes through the food line or heads over to the bar, Governor Walker should line them up by party and make everyone shake hands.  Maybe they should be made to say something nice to each other as well--or at least show some respect for those on the "other side".  It sure beats threatening to kill each other.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Who's Doing Fine?

I know everyone is jumping on President Obama for his "gaffe" during last Friday's press conference saying that the "private sector is doing just fine."  All weekend we heard about how "out of touch" the President is with the economic realities of most Americans--and how he can only see the government sector as the way to fix the recesion.  But let's be honest--there are some private sector companies and taxpayers that are "doing just fine" right now.

Apple doesn't seem to be hurting for revenues right now.  The IPad is killing all of the other tablets on the market right now.  The IPhone is still hot and people continue to download most of their new music off of ITunes.  Not bad for a company that does not sell a single "need" in a supply and demand economy. 

Google seems to be doing pretty well.  I don't know too many people who don't respond with " it" when someone asks a question they can't answer nowadays.  Ford sales remain strong--despite not taking a single government dollar to protect its union pension funds--I mean to "avoid going out of business".  And I don't see empty parking lots outside of movie theaters on Friday or Saturday nights.

And it's not just big corporations that are "doing just fine".  Many Americans are not in default with our mortgages.  (Those would be the people who saved up money for a down payment, took out standard 15-year mortgages and didn't buy McMansions.)  Many of us don't owe big bucks on our student loans.  (That would be the people who chose fields of study with modern practical applications and who planned to pay back the loans rather than racking up credit card debt as well by buying a whole bunch of stuff it took our parents years to accumulate during their working careers.)  And those of us who show up on time, work hard, get our assignments done and who have a positive attitude toward our bosses tend to hang on to our jobs--even in these "difficult employment times."

But, this "doing fine" is a tenuous situation at best.  The big corporations I mentioned before face major increases in health insurance costs and rising energy bills as well (ironically, due to the Obama Administration's economic policies).  And the belief that further government spending and debt is the only way out of our malaise threatens to put more pressure on those that are keeping everything afloat right now. 

The President may not be "out of touch" with the entire economic situation--but he is on the precipice of putting a real recovery "out of reach" for an entire generation.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Last Recall-Related Two Cents...I Promise

Final thoughts on the Recalls---

--Those who bemoan the amount of money spent on political campaigns always claim that all of the negative advertising and "corporate influence" "hijacks" elections and suppresses turnout.  How then to explain the most expensive gubernatorial election in Wisconsin history producing the biggest turnout for a gubernatorial election in Wisconsin history?  Believe me, if the spend of all that money wasn't actually effective, the wise people who are spending it wouldn't bother.  Let's face it, those looking to limit campaign spending are just angry that "their side" isn't the one raising the most money.

--And speaking of turnout, where are the "voter suppression" alarmists this week?  Nobody had to show a photo ID to get a recall ballot.  The polls were kept open an hour and a half later than scheduled in Milwaukee.  And we saw record number of absentee ballots cast in "early voting" campaigns--and Republicans won in bigger numbers than in 2010.  If record turnout results in Republican victories--why would the GOP try to "suppress" that turnout?  Hmmmmmmm....

--And speaking of campaign finances, why didn't Democrats put limits on incumbents' fundraising when they drafted the state's campaign finance laws?  Ed Schultz, Rachel Maddow, union leaders and Democratic party officials all say Scott Walker only won because he raised so much more money than Tom Barrett.  Excuse me, but wasn't the Governor playing by the rules that you yourself wrote?  Nobody in the Democratic caucus thought "hey, maybe recall targets should be covered by these limits as well" during the drafting of the campaign finance bills?  And when Dems controlled everything in Madison from 2008 to 2010, nobody brought up this "glaring loophole" that everyone says now has to be closed because a Republican benefited from it?

--Does Tom Barrett wear a sign that says "BEAT ME UP PLEASE"?  He tries to enjoy a night at the State Fair with his family and gets the crap kicked out of him.  And then, to add insult to insult, his own "supporter" slaps him in the face because he conceeded defeat Tuesday night--when it was obvious to everyone but those continuing to live in denial as to the will of the voters that he was not going to win.  Of course, face slapping is a common outburst from children who don't get their way--so I guess we shouldn't be that shocked that happened.  By the way, if Mayor Barrett had been slapped in the face by someone wearing an "I stand with Scott Walker" pin on their shirt, that person would have been immediately arrested and charged with criminal assault.  A WEAC member, she gets "escorted out of the event" without punishment.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Winners and Losers

There's a line from Pulp Fiction that comes to mind in the aftermath of yesterday's recall elections.  It was delivered by "The Wolf" (played by Harvey Keitel) to Jules and Vincent Vega (Samuel L Jackson and John Travolta) after they were all proud of themselves for cleaning up the blood-soaked car before "Bonnie" got home to catch them.  Because it's from Pulp Fiction I can't actually use it on the air--but suffice it to say, it meant "let's not celebrate prematurely here, boys."

And that is the message to keep in mind for those who supported Governor Scott Walker--nothing has been "won" yet.  To me, "victory" will come when the next budget is balanced without any refinancing of debt or further borrowing.  "Victory" will be when spending programs are sustainable--and we aren't promising more to people than can actually be delivered by those footing the bill.  And "victory" will come when the State has reserves that will help it weather the inevitable ups and downs of the economy and tax revenues--so that massive layoffs and employee concessions can be avoided.

And believe me, attaining that "win" will be even more challenging in the future.  The economy isn't going anywhere fast--and changes are coming down the pike that will push it even deeper into the quicksand.  There may not be anyone who wants to be Governor in 2014 when the number of people flocking to Badgercare overwhelms the state coffers.  The people touting the "most important election of my lifetime" stuff this week will look back in November of this year and realize this was small beans (barring relief from the Supreme Court this summer).

Long story short--if people don't see the changes "working" in 2014--they will be more than happy to throw the whole thing out and head back in some other different direction again.

And all of this talk about unions being the "big losers" last night--I see it as quite the contrary.  The chance for requiem in the eyes of the rest of us is now in front of you.  Go back to work this morning, and the morning after that and the morning after that without complaint.  Pay more for your insurance and your retirement and absorb the pay and hiring freezes with quiet dignity.  And then, when the "good times" return, you can stand before your neighbors and say "Hey, we took the cuts, we went without the raises just like you did--and now its time for us to get some of that back."  And the people who also paid more for their insurance and their retirement and who had to put up with the pay and hiring freezes in the private sector--and who will then be reaping the benefits of the stronger economy--will say "Yes, you are correct--you do deserve to enjoy the same growth that our families are enjoying again".  And lawmakers who still try to blame the organized employees will be exposed and defeated.

It is my firm belief that Governor Walker won by a larger margin last night than he did in 2010 not because more people are on board with the "changes" that his administration instituted--but rather because the majority of voters said "This is not the way we are going to do things anymore.  No more recalls, no more protests, no more disruptions, no more insults, no more fleeing to Illinois to block votes.  If you want to talk about all of the stuff that is making you angry, save it for November of 2014.  We will address it then.  Until then, we are done with this silliness.  Good night!"

The Most Reviled Person in Wisconsin

On this recall election day, let's talk about the most reviled person in Wisconsin.  Of course, I'm talking about Robyn Ereth of Neshkoro.  Don't know Robyn Ereth?  Well she is the woman who stole a shoe that Donald Driver had tossed to a boy in the stands at Fox Cities Stadium after his charity softball game on Sunday.

Video of this incident has gone viral:

In it, you can see Driver motion to the boy that he is going to throw him his shoe.  That's when Ereth comes in from the side and literally wrestles the shoe out of the boy's hands and then holds it above her head like its the Stanley Cup.

As you might expect, reaction to the video has been less than positive.  Driver himself was so unhappy that he asked for help in tracking down the boy so that he could give him another shoe--along with a bunch more Packers stuff and a face-to-face meeting.  That took place yesterday at Fox Cities Stadium.

Ereth has since issued an apology--sending an email to the Appleton Post Crescent:

In it she says she "overreacted to the excitement of the moment" and now wants to return the shoe to the boy and to offer him an in-person apology.  I was hoping there would be a press conference called as well.  I'd like Ereth to answer the questions "At what point did you realize that you were fighting a twelve year old for a sweat-soaked shoe?"  and "If the video of this hadn't made it to every national news outlet and website with everyone calling you basically the worst person in the world--would you still be offering to return the shoe?"
To his credit, the boy--Stephen Wagner of Ripon--harbors no ill will toward Ereth--telling Action 2 News that "people shouldn't be mean to her" because "it was anyone's right to get it (the shoe).  It's sad when a 12-year old needs to remind adults how to act.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Wise Words From Wise Men

Usually, I like to make "My Two Cents" about my own thoughts, but today I thought I would share the thoughts of three other men--all of whom some would consider much smarter than me:

"New rule: No do-overs.  Once you elect an official, unless he runs off with public funds or gets caught with kiddie porn, you're stuck with him.  He's the Governor, not some dude you married in Las Vegas. Maybe he's a lousy governor, but he was the one elected by the voters that bothered to show up at the polls. Their efforts shouldn't be undone by disgruntled shoppers signing a petition on their way out of Target.  Anyone who thinks this recall is an affirmation of democracy should review early American history.  This is precisely the kind of direct involvement by the howling masses that the framers wanted to avoid"

And here's another:

"This nation was founded on the proposition that we, the people are best able to chart our own destiny.  We, the people are the ones who ought to have the right to make decisions about what happens to us and to our families and to our communities.  And when we vote and when the majority votes to have a particular set of policies and ideas and individuals to be controlling the course of our future, then nobody ought to overturn the say of the people.  The people ought to govern themselves and have a right to make decisions.  The people who want to see this recall take place are disrespecting the majority who voted in the election last year, disrespecting the right of the majority to engage in self-governance."

And finally this one:

"Recalling the Governor will create a circumstance where nobody ever makes a hard decision again.  I don't want you to become a laughingstock, a carnival or the beginning of a circus in America where we just throw people out wehenever they make a hard decision.  A recall would spread instability and uncertainty among your people and across the country."

Believe it or not, none of those quotes come from the Walker campaign, anyone associated with the Republican Party or from any of the talk show hosts here on WOSH.  Those quotes come from (in order) Bill Maher, former Vice President Al Gore (the longest quote--no surprise there) and former President Bill Clinton.  All three were commenting on the recall of Democratic California Governor Gray Davis in 2003.

Ironically, President Clinton was in Milwaukee on Friday supporting the very process he derided nine years ago--for the very same reasons that he opposed back then.  His quote last week "Sometimes recall is necessary to prevent you from heading down the wrong path."  Based on President Clinton's "new logic" California residents seeing their electricity bills triple due to Gray Davis's refusal to site new coal or nuclear power plants in his state, the tripling of car registration fees, and a 38-BILLION DOLLAR budget deficit that threatened to shut down schools and public safety agencies was the "right path".

What do you say we listen to these "Wise Men" who hold themselves up as "protectors liberty and freedom".  Wouldn't that make us more "bi-partisan" and "open minded"?

Friday, June 1, 2012


One of the things you notice when you watch the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee every year is how many of the finalists are home-schooled.  Now before you think "here comes another attack piece on public schools", calm down.  The time needed to develop the memorization and recall abilities, and the knowledge of language of origin patterns possessed by the super-spellers on display last night cannot be committed to in the classroom setting.  Besides, kids today need to learn more important things than spelling--like the history of labor unions and the proper application of a condom. (Sorry, had to get a little dig in there)

What the National Spelling bee shows is the incredible power of parents getting involved in their kids' educations--and what happens when you encourage--and expect--excellence from a child.  None of those finalists last night got on that stage by watching a video on spelling, or by putting off their practice sessions until after they watch "American Idol" or "Sixteen and Pregnant".  You don't become a great speller (or a great anything for that matter) by sending 500-text messages to the kids you saw just ten minutes ago at school.  And did you notice that none of the kids on stage had the IPod earbuds in while waiting their turn?

Too many parents have abdicated their duties as "educators".  Sit and read with the kids?  They can learn just as much by watching Elmo, right?  Make sure the kids do their homework before plopping down in front of the computer?  Why bring up that battle every night--their teachers will make sure their work is done.  Feel uncomfortable having the discussion about "birds and bees"?  Don't worry, the public schools will teach your kids everything they need to know about having sex--not so much on the why they shouldn't have sex.

Like all activities, there are "Bee Parents" that are out of control--thinking their child is superior to all others and not capable of error (You didn't pronounce that word correctly!!  My daughter was confused!!)--but at least they are very involved in their child's education.  Hours spent together going over word lists, practicing words and sitting in gymnasiums and auditoriums listening to hundreds of kids spell thousands of words that the average person will NEVER use in their lives.  And I'm positive that spelling isn't the only thing at which those kids excell.  And I doubt they will be borrowing tens of thousands of dollars to pay for their college educations.

Amazing what can happen when you commit the time actually needed to be a parent.