Friday, February 24, 2012

The Ryan Braun Aftermath

Defense attorneys in high profile cases often like to ask the assembled media after a "shocking" acquittal, "Where does my client go now to get his reputation back?"  It's a thinly veiled shot at the media--who likely spent the previous months and weeks giving air time to talking heads--who without the benefit of seeing any evidence or hearing any tesitmony--insist that "justice" will only be done with a guilty verdict.  Well, you can now add the Brewers' Ryan Braun to those looking for the Reputation Restoration Department.

I'm debating whether or not to watch the talking heads on ESPN today.  None of them will admit they were wrong in condemning Braun for his positive test.  The argument I expect to hear is that he got off "on a technicality"--and that a problem with the chain of custody of his test sample still doesn't explain why there was an "insanely high amount" of testosterone in it.

Like many, I was quick to assume that Braun was guilty of violating the doping rules.  I said a little "Yeah, right" under my breath when Braun issued his statement saying there were "extenuating circumstances" that would exonerate him.  But my mind was changed when Jimmy Rollins of the Philadelphia Phillies--a guy who would have no reason to take Braun's side (and who would benefit from the damage to the Brewers if Braun was suspended for fifty games)--posted a cryptic message on Twitter that there were "cases you haven't heard about" where such positive tests were overturned.

In the run up to the Braun decision yesterday, we heard endlessly about how "no Major League Baseball player" has successfully appealed a positive test.  But how do we really know that is true?  Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, all drug test results are to be kept quiet until the player has appealed--and that appeal has been denied.  The difference with the Braun case is that someone--either within MLB or the Players Association--leaked the results of the positive test BEFORE Braun had a chance to make his argument.

I think you can see why both sides would want the results and the appeal process kept under wraps.  For the players, they are spared the public scrutiny and scorn that Ryan Braun faced if a positive test turns out to be compromised or wrong--while Major League Baseball is able to make it appear to the public that the steroid testing procedure is airtight and that "all of the cheaters" are getting caught.

That is why Commissioner Bud Selig must now "man up" and step before a whole bunch of microphones and cameras TODAY and tell us if, in fact, Ryan Braun is the first player to have a positive PED test overturned or not.  Bud doesn't have to name names--we don't need more guys dragged into the mud here--just give us the raw numbers.  Is is three, four, 104?

It's okay to say that the testing process is not yet perfect--and that mistakes have been made.  As long as humas are involved, there will be errors.  Level headed fans will understand that.  But please, don't make it look like Ryan Braun just "lawyered up" to beat the system this one time.  Maybe that can be the first step to a bright young star restoring his reputation.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Russ Sells Out

Not having a job in politics for the first time in his adult life has apparently made former Senator Russ Feingold desperate.  How else to explain Feingold being named a co-chair of President Obama's re-election campaign in Wisconsin?

That means the only member of the Senate to vote against the Patriot Act will be out stumping for a President who has continued the warrantless wiretaps on US citizens which Feingold decried endlessly as "assaults on personal liberties".  And that lone dissenter will defend a President who ordered the murder of a US citizen in a drone attack in a foreign country.

It also means the man who called the enemy combatant detention facility at Guantanamo Bay the "greatest threat to our national security"--and who campaigned for its immediate closure--will now promote a President who continues to keep Gitmo open.

This means the Senator who grilled Bush Administration Justice Department officials about the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects will ask us to vote for a President who continues to hold those same suspects without trials.

In addition, the lawmaker who droned on and on about "corporate welfare" will tout the accomplishments of a President who provided billions of dollars in bailouts to the auto industry--and who lost billions more on failed renewable energy firms.

This also means the Democrat who insisted that a single-payer, Government-run system was the "only viable option" for health care reform will trumpet a President who dumped the public option from his own bill--even though Democrats HAD THE MAJORITY IN BOTH HOUSES OF CONGRESS!

And the crusader who put his own name on the most sweeping regulation of campaign finance laws--crying that "money has polluted politics"--will now help to raise money for a President who has made it his stated goal to spend ONE-BILLION DOLLARS on his re-election campaign.

Even if you didn't agree with Russ Feingold's politics, you had to respect the way that he stood by his principles--no matter who he had to criticize or oppose to do it.  Now it looks like "getting back in the game" has become more imporant than political principle.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Little Consistency, Please

I've waited more than a week now--but it appears there will not be any public uproar over the budget released by President Obama.  I'm sure your recall how ugly things were here in Wisconsin when Governor Walker proposed a budget that required public employees to contribute at least 12-percent toward their health insurance and five percent toward their retirement benefits.  We heard over and over again from both State employees--along with County, City and School District workers about how local businesses would suffer because they (the workers) wouldn't have as much money to spend on dining out, drinking, movies, bowling and other "fun stuff"--since they would be making less now.

And that is why I expected the same reaction when news broke that the defense spending portion of the President's budget would cost the Oshkosh Corporation 600-MILLION DOLLARS NEXT YEAR!!  There are no official numbers anywhere detailing how much public sector employees will be "losing" under the Walker Budget--but in reviewing the stories we had on how much Winnebago County, local municipalities and area school districts said they were "saving" under the changes in collective bargaining I compiled a total of 22.6 Million bucks for this year.

That means the Obama budget will have the impact of more than 26 Walker budgets--in just a single year!!  And unlike the Walker budget, the Obama spending plan won't allow the Oshkosh Corporation to actually retain jobs.  Instead, the lower production of heavy tactical trucks for the military will mean layoffs and reduced hours for Oshkosh Corp employees.  What kind of impact will that have on the local economy?

I'll grant you that the President's budget is never approved as proposed (hell, the Democrats in the Senate haven't actually passed a budget in three years), so once Congress gets done with it, all 600-million will be back in there--probably with a little more pork thrown in for good measure.  And it's possible that infrastructure spending included in the budget might boost civilian concrete placement and access sales for Oshkosh.  But those are contracts the company will have to go out and win on the open market.  The defense contracts were signed and were in the bank.

So that is why I expected the UAW to protest outside the President's appearance in Milwaukee last week.  And it's why I'm waiting for the "Call Senator Herb Kohl today and tell him that you think Obama's budget is bad for the Oshkosh economy" radio and TV ads.  I mean, if Government spending is the only way to keep the economy afloat, we need to spend it in every possible way--right?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Founding 1%

Liberals have a new reason to hate the Founding Fathers:  It turns out that some of our first Presidents were One-Percenters.

Just in time for Presidents Day on Monday, the website 24/7 Wall Street has figured out the net worth of all 43 men who have held the office--with those numbers adjusted for inflation.

It turns out that our first President--George Washington--is the the richest President as well.  His wealth in 2012 dollars would be 525-million dollars.  The second richest President was Thomas Jefferson--with a net wealth of 212-million dollars.  James Madison--the fourth President and a framer of the Constitution--is fifth on the list with a net value of 101-million.

That certainly explains a lot doesn't it?  No wonder the Constitution doesn't include a clause requiring the Federal Government to provide "free" health care to everyone.  That would be the reason the Constitution doesn't give Congress or the President the power to require people to buy health insurance.  That must be why Thomas Jefferson didn't make the University of Virginia a totally-free institution when he founded it.  And now we know why the first two amendments to the Constitution prevent the Government from interfering with people's rights to practice their religion (apart from Government itself) and allow them to keep and bear arms.  Who else besides a 1% 'er would "cling to God and their guns"--to quote our current President.  Without all that wealth, the Founders would have known the most important right we have as Americans is access to free birth control pills.

The list also explains why Herbert Hoover "allowed" the country to fall into the Great Depression--he was the seventh richest President.  Good thing the 8th richest President--Franklin Roosevelt--wasn't tainted by his status as a 1%'er so that he could spend the country out of the Depression (OK, it was actually our involvement in World War II that ended the Depression--but liberals aren't big on historical accuracy--so let them believe what they want).

It's obvious that the #Occupy movement came 224-years too late.  If only they could have rioted outside Constitution Hall while those One-Percenters were drawing up the blueprint for our nation--we would be the Socialist Utopia that is soooooo much better than the free-market democracy we've had to suffer through since 1787.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Different Doesn't Mean Better

Excuse me if I don't get a bad case of "Lin-sanity".  I'm also going to take a pass on "Danica-Mania" this week.  And I won't be swept up in another tidal wave of "Tebow-Mania" next fall.  You see, I don't think that "different" automatically means "better".

Give the sports media something or someone who is different than the stereo-typical norm and they will beat you over the head constantly with it--usually touting how this is "a great story" or "will change your mind forever about (insert topic here)", or "is (person X) the greatest ever?"

Right now, Jeremy Lin is the "hottest thing in the NBA".  ESPN had a viewer poll last week asking if the two-week starter for the New York Knicks is the "best point guard in the league?"  And USA Today ran an opinion column asking NBA Commissioner David Stern to add Lin to the All-Star Game roster--after he had played JUST SIX GAMES!!!!!

So why is Lin such a media darling?  Because he is "different" from 99.99% of the rest of the league.  He is of Chinese Taipei descent and he went to Harvard.  A smart Chinese-American guy playing in the NBA?  Can't say we ever saw that before!!  It must be better than anything else going on in the league--let's make sure his games are nationally televised and the highlights lead Sportscenter every night!!

Let's step back and look at "Linsanity" from a distance.  If Jeremy was an African-American point guard who went to college at North Carolina and was putting up the same exact numbers for the Golden State Warriors or the Indiana Pacers would he be receiving the same media treatment?  Would ABC News have sent out a reporter to interview black kids shooting hoops in his jerseys on a playground asking if they were interested in basketball before "Lin-sanity"?  Would there be demand to add him to the All-Star game because it would be "so good for the game?"

The same goes for the hype that will surround Danica Patrick this week as NASCAR gets ready for the Daytona 500 on Sunday.  Fox Sports promos for the race feature Danica as prominently as five-time NASCAR champion Jimmy Johnson or defending Sprint Cup champ Tony Stewart.  They also had cutaway shots of Danica watching the Bud Shootout Saturday night.  I don't remember Dave Blaney or Ward Burton being shown watching the race--and they've actually won NASCAR races in their careers.

So remember, just because something is "different" doesn't mean it is automatically "better" than everything else that preceded it.  Keep in mind New Coke--or a first-term Illinois Senator who ran for President--as perfect examples of that.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Power Struggle

While the headlines might lead you to believe the move of the WIAA basketball tournaments to the Resch Center in Green Bay is a done deal--there is a clause in the Board of Control decision that still leaves the door open for the games to stay at the Kohl Center.  And in that clause we will find out who is the "King of Madison".

In this corner, you have Madison Mayor Paul Soglin--the former "Boy Mayor" who keeps returning to the office to preserve his "vision" for the modern Utopia that he believes he has created in the capital city.  He can't believe the WIAA would want to leave Madison--because doesn't everyone in the state love having to navigate all the one-way streets around the campus, the lack of on site parking and having to book a minimum of two nights at a hotel--even if your team loses in the semi-finals?

In the other corner you have the current holder of the crown, UW Athletic Director Barry Alvarez--who believes he turned a hippie-infested loserville into one of the the best sports cities in the US--already making hundreds of millions of dollars for Madison businesses in the process.  Alvarez titled his auto-biography Don't Flinch--so you know that he is not going to be intimidated easily.

Soglin has paired up with the desperate Madison Visitors and Convention Bureau to get campus-area hotels to drop their two-night minimum stay requirement for State weekends (although rate caps have not been agreed to yet).  He's also made the lame comparison to death of the Badger State Games after they moved from Madison to the Fox Cities (missing the important fact that the Tourney has built-in participation since schools aren't going to say "We don't want to play for a state title in Green Bay").

Alvarez has already made a few concessions--giving up on hosting an eventual Big Ten Hockey Tournament--but I cannot see him commiting those two March weekends to the WIAA long-term.  And really, why should he?  The Kohl Center is a University of Wisconsin facility--not a city of Madison building--and what is best for the UW Athletic Department MUST be his top priority.  It should be seen as an act of benevolence that he even opens the doors and turns on the lights for the high school kids.

The Board of Control did not set a deadline for the UW to capitulate to its wishes--but I'm guessing that Barry should expect daily calls and emails from Mayor Paul.  Will that influence the current "King of Madison" to cede some of his power?  I doubt it.

It looks like fans can look forward to lunch at Kroll's West before or after those State Tournement games.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sick Days

Yesterday, I made a tongue-in-cheek prediction that Republicans across Wisconsin would be calling in sick so they could go down to Milwaukee to protest President Obama's appearance at Master Lock.  Little did I know that Governor Scott Walker would be a Republican that would actually follow through on the idea.

Much was made on Tuesday about how the Governor was going to meet with the President and appear with him at Master Lock.  Then Wednesday morning, Walker's office announced that he had come down with the stomach flu--and would not be meeting with the President.  That was then clarified to state that the Governor would meet the President at the airport and give him a personalized Brewers jersey--but not accompany him on the trip to the plant.  Apparently, a couple dozen protesters missed that memo as they showed up at Master Lock with "recall Walker" signs.

The whole thing got me thinking about sick days.  I have taken exactly one and a half sick days since I started working at the age of 16.  One of those was when I had the chicken pox in high school and my boss at the restaurant didn't want me anywhere near there.  The half-day came when I literally got sick--mid-story on the air--in the radio studio up in Marinette-Menominee.  That's it--23-years of work--one and half sick days.

I'm lucky in that I hardly ever get sick.  But when I do, I still feel like I'm obligated to put in the best effort that I can on that day.  A lot of it deals with guilt--thinking that I am putting an even greater burden on my already over-stretched co-workers to not only get their work done--but then do some of mine as well.  It could also be the "Wally Pipp/Lou Gehrig syndrome" where you fear that if you miss a day, your replacement will have the job forever after that.

On the flip side, I know people who use every single sick day to which they are entitled--every single year.  I am amazed by their body's "regularity" in always getting too ill to work the maximum number of times it is allowed--without costing that person any money.  And just as amazingly, once those sick days are used up in say, November--those December "head colds" and "upset stomachs" are just tolerable enough to still come to work--and then complain to everyone in the entire office about just how terrible they feel, but they don't have any sick days left to take.

I can't really blame the "sick to the max" crowd for taking advantage of the system.  I work in a private-sector environment--meaning we don't get to carryover our sick time from year to year.  We use it or lose it (same with our paid vacation days as well).  Plus, we don't get payout for unused sick time that we accrue over the years--so there isn't that added bonus for just showing up every day when it comes time to leave the company (by choice or by force).

So here's to those of us who always find a way to get to work.  May our "amazing" good health and work ethic continue.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

When Republicans Attack

I fully expect Republicans to make asses of themselves when President Obama comes to visit Master Lock in Milwaukee today.  Thousands will call in sick so they can go down there to protest against the President.  Sickout rates will be so high that I expect businesses in Brookfield and Waukesha will likely have to shut down for the day.  Of course, no one will get in trouble--because there will be a bunch of neurologists, cardiologists and plastic surgeons on-hand to write everyone fake sick notes.

Once they get there, the Republican protesters will sing songs about how President Obama is trampling the Constitution and driving the country so deep into debt we can never get out.  There will be GOP operatives on-hand circulating petitions to impeach the President.  Those heading in to the plant will be videotaped--and their conversations will be secretly recorded.  Signs will be everywhere proudly telling the President that the protesters are part of the 1%.

Once the President arrives at the plant, the Republicans will begin chanting "SHAME, SHAME, SHAME!!" as he walks in.  There might even be a few GOP state lawmakers there telling him he's "f---ing dead!"  While touring the plant, the President will get glitter-bombed by a Republican hoping to bring greater attention to increased estate taxes.

As the President gets ready for his speech, members of the 1% will walk in front of the stage--turn their backs to Mr Obama--and give the "rich power salute"--a raised fist clenching a $100 bill.  The President's speech will then be interrupted repeatedly by hard-core pro-lifers screaming about how Obama is an "abortionist" and a "baby killer".

And once the President--and the TV cameras--are gone, the Republicans will return to their Chambers of Commerce and their country clubs to pat themselves on the backs and to congratulate each other on showing the President "what democracy looks like."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How To Send a Message

Yesterday, I talked about something that depressed me during the Grammys.  Today, I want to talk about something that impressed me during the broadcast.

I'm talking about the Chipotle Mexican Grill commercial that debuted Sunday night.  There has been plenty of buzz about it since then.  If you haven't seen it, here's a link:

First off, I love decision to have Willie Nelson singing Coldplay's "The Scientist" as the only audio during the ad.  There is nothing better than a quirky crossover cover version to catch your attention.  Secondly, the animation is wonderfully creative.  My wife especially loves the little pigs, cows and chickens.  Third, the ad sends its message without being in-your-face or preachy.

For those of you unfamiliar with Chipotle, their restaurant chain buys their meats and other products from small, family-operated farms--with sustainability being a major focus.  And that is the message this ad conveys (the farmer starts small, expands, becomes a "corporate farm" operation, realizes this isn't what he wants and goes back to his smaller farm roots--where he supplies Chipotle with its food).  Unless it was slipped in there subliminally, there's no "MEAT IS MURDER" graphics in the ad, there is no undercover video footage of slaughterhouses, there is no one dressed up like a bloody chicken standing outside of KFC. 

And nowhere in the ad is there a little animated Congress passing a law barring the little farmer from running a mega-operation.  There isn't a little animated White House with a little animated First Lady demanding new dietary standards for fast-food restaurants, and there were no little animated City Council banning kids meals.  Chipotle was merely saying "this is the way we do business--and if you like that, give us a try."

Now before you think Chipotle is some hippie-hut, money-losing operation like Solyndra, consider that its stock price (yes, it is an "evil corporation") is currently over $377 A SHARE with a P/E ratio of of nearly 56.  It won't be putting Taco Bell out of business anytime soon--but for people looking for better quality and eco-friendly practices, Chipotle is providing a successful option.  And that is EXACTLY the way things are supposed to work in a free-market economy.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Time To Say Good Bye

I wasn't old enough to see Johnny Unitas stumbling around in the pocket for the San Diego Chargers.  I don't remember seeing Bobby Orr trying to skate with two bad knees for the Chicago Blackhawks.  I'm too young to remember Willie Mays falling down trying to field routine fly balls in centerfield for the New York Mets.  And I didn't have an appreciation for Muhammed Ali's greatness when he was being beaten up by Trevor Berbick.  But for those who had seen these greats in their primes, it must have been heartbreaking to see them out there still trying to play--despite having nothing left to offer the game.

That is why it breaks my heart to see Sir Paul McCartney go out on stage and still try to sing Beatles songs.  The latest example came last night at the Grammys--as Paul sang his latest song from his "standards" album (an all-too-common move by aging rock stars nowadays) and then wrapped up the show by performing the Abbey Road medley with several other rock legends.  No longer is the voice that sang the greatest songs of the past century able to hit any of the notes--and it seems like the "backup" singers are the ones who are really carrying the tune.

Unlike others from his generation (see the Beach Boys performance from last night as an example), Sir Paul is not mailing it in on stage.  You can see that he still loves performing--and seems to thrive on the adulation that comes from the crowd--even if it is more for his status as a living legend than for his current abilities.  I was one of those fans back in 1993--sitting in the sixth row, stage-front at Milwaukee County Stadium watching Paul rip it up for 2 1/2 hours in a pouring rain storm.  Even then, the range was a little tighter and the notes weren't held quite as long as the originals--but we were watching PAUL MCCARTNEY--IN PERSON--JUST A FEW FEET AWAY FROM US--so it really didn't matter.  But that was almost 19-years ago--and Paul is now just a shadow of his former self.

I know Paul is planning another world tour in support of his new album.  I won't be hovering over my computer waiting for the day the tickets go on sale.  Instead, I'll be listening to those 12 Beatles albums--those precious 213 songs that still have not been surpassed by any other act--music that time and age will never diminish. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

It's Not Your Fault.........Ever

I had to turn off the President's news conference on the big mortgage foreclosure settlement yesterday because it was getting me too pissed off.  The President continued to use the term "responsible homeowners" to describe the "victims" of the five lenders ponying up the $26 Billion to settle the Federal case.  He also used the phrase " who lost their homes through no fault of their own" a couple of times as well.

I will grant you, the President went to Harvard while I just went to the University of Wisconsin--but my definition of "responsible" would not include "not paying your mortgage."  I am yet to find an example on-line of a family that was up-to-date on their house payments that had Bank of America, or Ally Bank foreclose on their homes.  I can't even find a case where a homeowner missed just one payment before being tossed into the street.  All four million of the "victims" in this settlement were NOT PAYING THEIR MORTGAGES!!

The great "sin" of the five lenders is they made foreclosure "too easy".  They moved too quickly to file foreclosure papers--even though the loans were in default under the terms of the lending agreements.  They failed to re-finance the loans--and then wait another six months without payment.  And they refused to take a bath on short sales--like the houses could have been sold anyway.

I have two friends who are local lenders--and I wish we could have them on the air sometime to tell their stories from the "front lines" of the foreclosure mess--because their view of what's going on is a lot different than what the White House is seeing.  I wish you could hear the stories of homeowners who came to them with no interest in standard 15 or 30-year mortgages--because those monthly payments would have been too high--and they had no money for a down payment anyway.  They only wanted zero down, interest-only, jumbo, ARM's or balloon loans--because for at least one or two or five years they could barely make the payments.

My friends could also tell you about the letters to those not making their payments that go unanswered, the phone messages that are never returned, the appointments that are made to discuss refinancing or alternate payment plans that go unattended and the excuse after excuse after excuse they hear for why another promised, partial mortgage payment wasn't made this month.  I think you would be less likely to shake your head in the affirmative when the President says these people are losing their houses through "no fault of their own."

I realize that it is politically expedient for Democrats to not hold people accountable for their actions and their decisions in life--but can we do away with the insulting practice of lumping the irresponsible with those of us who do live our lives like our actions actually have consequences?  Thank you.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Keeping Things In Perspective

Sometimes those of us in the media do a poor job of providing proper perspective on the stories you hear or see.  Take for example the "race changing" victories of former Senator Rick Santorum in the Republican caucuses and primaries this week.  Much has been made Santorum's wins in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.  But just what did those victories actually entail?

Unreported in most stories is that less than 2% of eligible voters turned out for the caucuses in Minnesota and Colorado--while just over 5% of those able to vote turned out in Missouri.  Granted, the caucus process--being closed to all those except registered Republicans--doesn't invite large turnout--but less than 2% turnout?  And while we may complain about the cost of recall primaries and elections here in Wisconsin at least we do better than 5% turnout for a statewide election.

And to further advance the math, Santorum got less than half the vote in those three states--meaning his "game changing victories" were based on less than 1% of eligible voters in Minnesota and Colorado--and less than three-percent of voters in Missouri.  That is what makes this whole Presidential primary system such a crapshoot every four years--such a small percentage of the electorate is actually making the decision for the rest of us.  It's also why a first-term US Senator that nobody heard of five years ago--but who had high-energy volunteers able to get out the necessary numbers in very small voting pools--was able to defeat a former First Lady with a lot more money in 2008.

Another fact sort of glossed over this week is that Santorum won exactly ZERO delegates to the Republican National Convention this week.  The last time I checked, the nomination process requires you to have delegates to vote for you at the convention.  Colorado and Minnesota will distribute their delegates at their state conventions later this year--while Missouri Republicans will actually hold caucuses later this year to determine it delegation.  So the elections this week were nothing more than beauty contests--without the tiaras and sashes.

The Presidential race is entering a bit of lull--with just a couple of small states holding primaries between now and Super Tuesday in March--so the talking heads on the news networks need something to talk about.  Rick Santorum's "overwhelming" victory among less than one-percent of the population in three states fills the bill for now.  Just try to keep all the hype in perspective.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Let's Skip Ahead a Bit

Can we skip ahead to the part where we vote in the recall election?  I ask because the longer this verification part goes on--the more frustrated and angry everyone is going to become.

Let's just fast-forward through the part where the Government Accountability Board gets sued because it refuses to hear from people who say they are on the recall petitions--but that isn't their signature--and the part where collectors admit they were given "bonuses" for adding names and addresses just to fill out petitions--and the part where somebody finds fifty dead people have signed as well.  There won't be half-a-million signatures to throw out, so let's do away with all of the challenges and verify the thing.  The more the GAB looks like goof-balls, the more it undermines the election process for real contests in the future.

We can also skip over the dance some Democrats are doing with the "am I running or am I not running" decision.  As has been mentioned in this space before, no big names are getting in the race because there isn't enough time to raise the gobs of money to have a chance--and if you do win, you can't do what the unions that are pushing this whole thing are demanding you do without busting the budget again--so what is the point?

And we can certainly 86 the all of the recall campaign ads that will saturate the airwaves all spring and summer long.  Here's a brief summary in just 30-seconds total.  WEAC says because of Scott Walker's budget cuts, teachers are holding classes in bathroom stalls.  AFSCME says that because of Scott Walker's proposed cuts to Familycare, seniors are already living on the streets.  The state Democratic Party says a John Doe investigation shows Scott Walker is a crook.  The Walker campaign points out Kathleen Falk left Dane County with an 11-million dollar budget deficit--and proposed a 22% property tax increase to fix it.  And the state Republican Party says out-of-state unions are shoveling millions of dollars into Wisconsin to undermine the vote of the people.  Anything I missed there?

So let's just skip ahead to voting part--is tomorrow too soon?  That way, when the warm weather returns to Wisconsin in a couple of months, we can all just sit back and enjoy it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Halftime Speech

It's all anyone can talk about:  What did Clint Eastwood mean with his "Halftime in America" ad during halftime of the Super Bowl on Sunday?  MSNBC talking heads are positive it was an implicit endorsement of President Obama for a second term in office (Halftime of his 8 years in office, get it?).  Fox News talking heads are positive its a condemnation President Obama, because it talks about getting off your lazy duffs and doing something constructive to get the country moving again.  Yesterday, Clint added to the mystery, when he issued a statement saying he "certainly doesn't endorse Mr Obama" but "if he wants to run with the spirit of the ad, go for it."

It might be easier to define the ad by figuring out what it ISN'T and narrowing down the possibilities.

The ad WAS NOT a personal manifesto of Clint Eastwood.  Clint didn't write it--just like Eminem didn't write the Chrysler ad that aired during last year's Super Bowl.  Chrysler hired Eastwood because he has an easily distiguishable voice--and he starrred in a movie "Gran Torino" that was set in the decay of inner city Detroit.  Conservatives worried that Eastwood is endorsing President Obama need to keep in mind that the reason Clint ran for Mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California back in the 90's is because he HATED the overbearing regulations and high taxes imposed on businesses and developers by the previous Mayor and Council.  Does that sound like a guy that would backing the current administration?

The ad WAS NOT a "game plan" for how to "win" the "second half".  When teams come back to the locker room for halftime, coaches diagram adjusted game plans on the chalkboard and give their players direction on what to execute or a visual representation of what their opponents are doing against them.  Unless a lack of effort is the problem, platitudes like "let's come together and start working as a team" aren't going to bring a team from behind.  Another complaint about the current administration--plenty of platitudes, not a lot of game-planning.

The ad WAS NOT a story of real recovery of a once proud American company.  The federal bailout of Chrysler and its unsustainable pension and retiree health care plans cost taxpayers $1.2 Billion dollars.  And the company is now under the majority ownership of Italian carmaker Fiat.  I'm still embarrassed that my beloved Jeep brand--which for decades represented the rugged individualism of the American Spirit--has been dragged down into this boondoggle.

And the ad CERTAINLY WAS NOT this generation's "It's morning again in America" moment.  Survey after survey shows neither business owners nor consumers are seeing any light at the end of the tunnel--unlike 1984 when the Reagan re-election campaign correctly captured the far more optimistic mood of a nation that actually saw the impact of lower taxes and reduced government regulation on their lives. 

You can see or hear whatever you want in the "Halftime" ad but here is the very simple message it meant to convey: "PLEASE BUY A CHRYSLER VEHICLE."  That's it.  It was a car ad--nothing more, nothing less.  For Chrysler to have spent $4-million dollars to say anything else--would have been the stupidest marketing decision in American history.

Monday, February 6, 2012

It Was a Nice Run

It won't be Urban Meyer stealing Bret Bielema's recruits, or kids growing tired of playing Bo Ryan's plodding style or the continuous loss of underclass stars to the NHL that will end the University of Wisconsin's recent run of athletic success in so many sports.  Instead, it will be the Labor Licensing Policy Committee.

Never heard of the Labor Licensing Policy Committee?  They aren't an arm of the NCAA or even a part of the UW Athletic Department.  Instead, they are a self-appointed watchdog committee of professors and administrators that decide which companies can produce officially licensed apparel and equipment bearing the Wisconsin logo and name.  The LLPC is upset with the current supplier--Addidas--and wants their contract ternimated.

Addidas' great sin was failing to make sure that the owner of an Indonesian plant where Wisconsin apparel was made received severance payments for the closure of a plant last year.  Addidas points out it gave the plant owner the money for the payments--but the cash was never passed along.  Nevertheless, the Labor Licensing Policy Committee believes this is somehow Addidas' fault and therefore they aren't "worthy" of making Bucky Badger stuff anymore.  It would be akin to a used car salesman who was fired after selling you your car showing up on your doorstep and saying the commission on that sale wasn't on his final check--so you owe him some cash.  Would you say "Hey, let me get my wallet"?  Or would you tell the guy "Dude, sounds like a problem between you and owner--you've already got my cash."

You may recall, Wisconsin used to be a Nike school.  But the LLPC cancelled their contract a few years ago because Nike shut down their plants in Honduras to move work to Vietnam--where, of course--workers were willing to take less in pay.  That is not "Fair Trade", so Bucky no longer "Just Do(es) It."  Ironically, "enlightened" universities like Stanford and Harvard still have their sports equipment made by Nike.  Apparently, their standards aren't just as "fair" as Madison's.

Now that Nike and Addidas are too "evil" to equip Wisconsin sports teams--the Athletic Department will have to go out and find a new licensed supplier.  Under Armor is a possibility--but did you see the Maryland football uniforms and helmets this year?  No thanks.  Besides, if I was a major sporting goods and apparel maker I would tell the LLPC to stuff its "standards" in the same place in the sock drawer where they hide their bag of marijuana and water bongs--the headaches aren't worth your business.  So AD Barry Alvarez will be forced to go out to smaller, lower-quality suppliers to find fair-trade, free-range, Labor Licensing Policy Committee-pleasing sources for his equipment.  And thus, the fall of Bucky begins.

The football team's offense will struggle to hang on to the slippery new ball made of an inflated Nepalese yak bladder--laced together with hemp strings.  The basketball team will struggle to just keep enough guys healthy to put five on the floor following the rash of foot and ankle injuries caused by wearing Birkenstock sandals with Andean Alpaca wool socks.  The hockey team should be ok, however.  They can get all their equipment from Canadian companies like Bauer and CCM.  Canadians are all rich because they they belong to unions and government pays for their health care.

So some Saturday in the future when Ohio State is pounding the ill-equipped Badgers by 50, Wisconsin fans can at least take solace in knowing that lead was built on the backs of exploited workers around the world.

Friday, February 3, 2012

My Super Sunday

I really hate what the Super Bowl has become.

I say that as a real sports fan who has seen what should be the most important football game of the year become of tertiary concern on its day--behind commercials and entertainment.  I've been at Super Bowl parties where side-conversations are going on during the actual game play--but then everyone shuts up when the commercials come on--or people who have spent the entire first half chatting in the kitchen suddenly appear for the halftime show.

NBC will be providing FIVE HOURS of pregame show for this year's Super Bowl.  That is about an hour-and-a-half longer than the ACTUAL GAME will take to play!!  I'd rather they back end the five hours by replaying the game with talking heads breaking down each individual play.  An NFL halftime is 12-minutes--the perfect amount of time for the networks to get in a few commercials, show you the highlights of other games and give you a chance to get something to eat and go to the bathroom.  The Super Bowl halftime is 31-minutes.  The players actually have to come back out and re-warm up and stretch because they've been sitting around for so long--waiting for the portable stage and the fake "fans" to get off the field.

If I said David Tyree's catch, James Harrison's interception or Scott Norwood's kick--could you recall the Super Bowl moment I was talking about?  But I bet you would have no problem recall the ads that featured Darth Vader, cat wranglers and Clydesdales.

Does that mean I'm boycotting the Super Bowl?  No.  I'll enjoy the company of friends and making my Authentic Recipe Anchor Bar Buffalo Wings.  But I'm not going to treat this like a real sporting event.  For me, Super Sunday is the final round of the Masters.

Somehow, the Masters has managed to avoid becoming over-commercialized and sensationalized like every other thing in our society today.  Commercials?  Augusta National allows CBS to air just FOUR MINUTES of ads an hour.  That means 56-MINUTES of actual golf coverage every hour.  And the Masters has had the same four sponsors for the last two decades--so apparently that little exposure is still worth it.  And let's not forget a few years ago when boycotts were threatened against those sponsors, there were NO COMMERCIALS DURING ANY OF THE FOUR DAYS OF BROADCASTS!!!  It was the greatest four days in sports broadcasting history!!

Entertainment?  If something as tacky as a jukebox was allowed in the Augusta National Clubhouse, it would still be spinning 78s featuring Frank Sinatra and Benny Goodman.  Besides, they have Tiger Woods EVERY YEAR!!  Why would you need Madonna or the Rolling Stones?

So enjoy the Big Game on Sunday.  I'll be waiting for that Sunday in April when real sports fans get their special day.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

If It's Brown, It's Down

Would it be possible to NOT have a hunting season for every animal that lives in Wisconsin?

I have to admit I was surprised that it took a whole week after gray wolves were removed from the endangered list in the state before some lawmaker proposed a hunting season on them.  I fully expected a bill to be introduced the same day--voted on--and passed so we can start getting our guns ready to shoot something else.

Representative Scott Suder is using the old "Hunting is the best way to control the population" argument for his wolf season.  Heaven forbid we actually let natural selection and the natural cycle of the wolf eco-system determine how many animals the state can support.  If a wolf is attacking your livestock or your dogs--fine, you can shoot them.  But do we really need thousands of people traipsing through the Northwoods shooting wolves in their natural habitat?

Another bill that will likely raise plenty of protest comes from Representative Joel Kleefisch, who wants a hunting season on sandhill cranes.  Here again, the argument is that cranes eat farmers' corn and there are a lot more of them around than there used to be--so we need to step in and start shooting them.

I give this measure ZERO chance of passing.  The International Crane Foundation is headquartered in Wisconsin and they are very opposed to idea.  They have concerns about hunters shooting endangered whooping cranes instead of sandhills--and when you consider that people have been killed here in Wisconsin because a fellow hunter thought they were a squirrel--they have a pretty good point.

Besides, the sandhills that I see (on golf courses or in my parents' retirement village in Florida) don't seem particulary skittish around people.  How much of a challenge would it be if you can walk up to about ten feet away from the bird and shoot it?

Hunters in Wisconsin already have dozens of species that they can hunt, trap and fish for already.  What do you say we let a few animals just live out their lives without being turned into dinner?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

And the Hits Just Keep Coming!!

If I am fortunate to win a third Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Award for Excellence in Radio Editorial Content after this year, I am going to have the plaque sent to Oshkosh School Board President John Lemberger's house.  Lemberger has become my main Two Cents inspiration--my muse.  The Cleo to my Chaucer, the Gala to my Dali, the Yoko Ono to my John Lennon.

The man is a neverending source of material.  Efforts to silence dissention on the board?  Did that.  Defended open meetings violations?  Did that.  Declared war on accurate reporting of School Board actions by the local Newspaper?  Did that as well.  And now Mr Lemberger has come out admitting that he knew all along the Superintendent Don Viegut was shopping around for another job--but didn't think that was the kind of thing other members of the School Board should know.

To add further inspiration this morning, Lemberger "can't remember" if Viegut came to him for a letter of recommendation before or after the School Board voted to give Viegut a two year contract extension back in October.  Viegut's application went in the mail about two weeks after that Board meeting.  I'd be willing to bet that it was before--and that Lemberger knew full well that Viegut was one foot out the door as he poo-pooed Ben Schneider's concerns about giving two year contracts to administrators who never seem to fulfill them.

And in defending his actions during questions from our reporter last night, Lemberger said he "Owed it to his relationship with Viegut" to remain mum.  I guess that lets the other six members of the School Board that elected Lemberger their President know where they stand.  It's okay if they find out huge news from reporters calling them at home on a Saturday afternoon--because that is when the District made its announcement about Viegut leaving.  Better to have your six colleagues look like they have no idea what is going on with the District that they are supposed to be leading.  And don't feed me this stuff about how letting people know Viegut was unhappy here and shopping around would erode public confidence.  How many times has UW Oshkosh Chancellor Richard Wells been a finalist for a job somewhere else--and the campus hasn't slid into the river yet.

Somebody needs to remind John Lemberger that this isn't the Faculty Senate, or the Child Education Consortium or the Winnebago County Labor Council that he is running here.  This is the Oshkosh School Board.  THIS IS REAL GOVERNMENT!!!  With real rules guiding its operation--and a primary commitment to the people who elect its members and fund its operations.  NOT preferred employees.

Of course, if he was to get the message--what woud he have to talk about every other week?