Friday, May 31, 2013

Upon Further Review.....We Were Right

Today's "My Two Cents" was originally going to feature yours truly admitting that perhaps those of us guaranteeing skyrocketing health insurance premiums next year under the Affordable Care Act were wrong.  That admission was going to be based on a Forbes article by Rick Ungar that was Tweeted by thousands and sent directly to my email from several sources (usually with the heading "You Were Wrong!!") that the health care exchanges in California and Oregon were going to offer insurance plans with premiums at the far LOW end of all the predictions.

I was all set to write off the low rates as nothing more than "teasers" offered by the insurance companies to draw all of these new customers in with a super-low, first-year rate--which would get jacked up once they get you in their system--because they know that you won't go through the trouble of comparing rates every year, and that changing anything nowadays is a real hassle.  When was the last time you actually called around for multiple quotes on your car or home insurance?  You probably just get the bill every six months and send in the check.  I was also readying my arguments that the low premiums will be economically impossible once those insurers start handling all of the claims from their new customers--many of whom will be those that employer-based health plans refused to cover due to exceptional expense or risk.

But then another Forbes article hit the internet last night, and order was restored to the Universe.  Avik Roy picked up on the fact that the State of California in its gleeful press release compared the rates paid by people enrolled in existing health plans provided by employers to those offered by the insurers in the exchanges--NOT the premiums currently paid by those buying insurance on their own (as those in the exchanges will actually be doing).  It was a classic apples to oranges comparison.  Once Roy compared the apples to the apples, he found that rates will actually increase for most customers by 64 to 146% next year.  Let's give some credit to folks at Covered California for at least trying to put lipstick on the pig.

One thing that should be kept in mind in discussing whatever percentage of premium increase you want to take as the gospel truth is that the rates quoted by companies in the exchange is NOT what people will actually be paying.  They will be paying less--more than likely substantially less than that all thanks to the FEDERAL SUBSIDY!!  Yes, Joe Taxpayer will be the one covering the vast majority of the premium increases that exchange customers will "experience".  But we should have no problem that right?  Unless the other Forbes article on the expected DOUBLING of premiums in employer-provided insurance plans turns out to be wrong.  Although I doubt it.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Starvation Strategy

Progressives and Liberals sure have a funny way of showing "support" for the poor--they apparently want them all to starve.  How else to explain the protests last weekend around the world over genetically modified foods and the social media campaign to boycott the Monsanto Corporation?  It would seem that attempting to derail efforts to increase the production of food would run counter to the effort to provide more food to people who need it.

Genetic modification is as old as agriculture itself--as early farmers realized that they could cross-pollinate higher-yield plants with other higher-yield plants and increase the amount of grain that could be produced per acre.  Livestock producers realized that breeding the larger animals in their herd--or the better milk-producing cows--could increase their yields as well.  It was these practices that allowed the human species to move from a hunter-gatherer to an agrarian existence and eventually an industrialized society.

Today's genetic modification practices are all about increasing yields even further--and boosting the benefits of foods we eat as well.  Today's grains are more drought, disease and pest-resistant--meaning less need to water crops or apply pesticides and fertilizers.  Supporters of expanding food stamp programs like to use the term "food security".  Well, knowing that the fields you plant are going to produce--no matter what Mother Nature throws at you--that is real "food security".  And today's beef and pork is leaner than the meat we ate just a few decades ago.  The cows and pigs grow bigger and faster--meaning more meat is available in the supply chain.  Fish have been bred the same way--putting less pressure on the oceans as seafood can be "grown" through aquaculture.  Why do you think food prices have always lagged behind other "necessities" when it come to the rate of inflation for the past century?

And GMO's of the future will enhance the healthy aspects of our food as well.  Cancer-fighting agents can be grown right into our corn or fruits or vegetables.  Medicines for other types of ailments could be part of the potatoes or rice we eat every night.  Food-related allergies could be alleviated by changing the DNA structure of the plants or the meat--opening up further food sources to siliacs or those that can't eat peanuts or tree nuts. 

The anti-GMO efforts threaten to take us back to the Dark Ages of mankind.  When a blight or a drought or a year without a summer could put an entire continent on the brink of starvation.  When nations warred over food supplies and when plagues decimated underfed populations.  It was also a time when all of our food was "Organic"--and nearly everybody worked on a "family farm".

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Battle Royale

If you think the upcoming fights in Madison over what to do with the budget surplus or whether to expand the school voucher program are going to be long and nasty, just wait until the Legislature begins debate on a bill from Senators Fred Risser and John Lehman that will require senior drivers to pass behind the wheel tests to retain their licenses.

Senators Risser and Lehman want anyone over 75 to return to the DMV every four years to not only prove they can still see--but that they can also still handle a vehicle on the road.  The bill is based on the FACTS that older drivers get into more accidents--and more fatal crashes than anyone but teenage drivers.

Click here to enjoy one of the all-time best South Park episodes dealing with this subject

Not surprisingly, AARP is already drawing up its battle plan to fight this bill tooth and nail should it ever come up for a vote.  They will not make their argument that pulling seniors off the road because they can't pass a test won't make us safer (even though it will)--or that the DMV doesn't have the staff to test that many drivers every year (which they likely don't).  Their talking point will be that if seniors have to pass a road test--then EVERYONE should have to pass a road test to keep their licenses.  It's not "fair" that a higher-risk group is held to a different standard than a lower-risk group--no matter how many facts and figures you might have to prove your point.  (Kind of reminds you of the debate over health care coverage and premiums for those with pre-existing conditions) Oh, and don't forget--Seniors vote, Senators Risser and Lehman! (Which is why teen drivers have the graduated license law and limits on when they can drive and who can be in the vehicle with them--they don't vote)

My only problem with the bill is that it requires the behind the wheel test only every four years.  Anyone who has had a family member with dementia knows a lot can change in just one year--much less four.  And vision problems have faster timelines than that as well.  If I could amend the bill, I'd require the test EVERY YEAR.  Fortunately, the retired have more time to spend sitting in the DMV waiting area than the rest of us. 

And as for the test itself, may I recommend requiring the navigation of multiple roundabouts?  And that requirement stands even if the nearest roundabout is 250-miles away.  You never know, they may come to "visit" somewhere the DOT has decided needs to have roundabouts at every interchange and busy intersection.  And let's also require the senior drivers tool around grocery and department store parking lots as part of the test.  You can hire professional stuntmen to serve as the "pedestrians" so innocent bystanders are sent scurrying by the "I'm backing up and I don't care what's behind me" maneuver from the Reserved For Senior Citizens parking stalls.

And while we may be sharing a laugh here--keep in mind, there are 76-MILLION Baby Boomers in the US and they will start reaching the age of 75 in the next seven years.  You you can bet your bottom dollar that they have no intention of giving up their keys--no matter how dangerous they may become behind the wheel.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Press Interference

Television's intrusion into the integrity of sports reached a new low over the weekend as a cable supporting a zip-line camera at Charlotte Motor Speedway snapped and fell onto the track during the Coca-Cola 600--damaging three cars and injuring ten fans.  The incident also red-flagged the race--forcing the drivers to park their cars for nearly a half-hour.

I'm sure when the racers got into their cars Sunday night, they probably thought the main risks to their vehicles would be engine failure, a blown tire or a crash collecting them and knocking them out of the race.  I doubt they had much concern about cameras and cables falling out of the sky and hitting their cars.  For fans, there is always the danger of debris from crashes flying into the stands--but a cable coming out of nowhere to hit you?  But there we were, the leader--Kyle Busch's car--seriously damaged from hitting the cable at about 190-miles an hour.  Two other cars damaged--including one that was dragging the cable around the track after it got twisted around the undercarriage.  And three people were sent to the hospital after being struck by a section of the cable that was thrown into the stands.  All so a TV producer could have a camera move along the front stretch and give us "cool pictures" of the cars driving by.

This isn't the first time one of these "cable cams" has interfered with a sporting event.  A couple of college and NFL games have been delayed after the cameras fell off their cables and nearly onto the field--or the drive motor that moves the camera unit along died, leaving it in a spot where it could be hit by a pass or a punt.  Maybe we should just rely on the Goodyear Blimp for our overhead shots from now on.

Of course, cable cam isn't the only intrusion that TV has made into the actual playing of sports over the years.  The wonderful "TV Timeout" drains all of the flow and energy out of contests--especially basketball and football--where teams sit around for four or five minutes several times a half and just wait for the okay from the producer on the sideline to resume play.  I've even seen kickoffs "redone" because TV hadn't come back from commercial yet.

Thanks to TV, we have the "call in violation" in golf, where players who completed their rounds hours ago are penalized and disqualified (except Tiger at the Masters) for something a fan at home saw on the nightly highlight show or that he taped during the afternoon.  We now have cameramen on the field of play in the NFL running with players as they head to the huddle and in Major League Baseball as a home run hitter rounds third base and heads for home.  And who can forget Fox's "glowing puck" for hockey--which players swore reacted differently than a "regular" puck--and which made the contest look like a cheesy video game on TV.

Is it "neat" to see Aaron Rodgers' face as he runs to the huddle for the opening drive of the game?  Maybe.  Is it "cool" to travel almost as fast as the cars from above at the race track? I guess.  But when those "covering the game" start having an influence on who ends up winning the game--it might to be time to put the electronic toys back in the box.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Sentimentality Doesn't Win Ball Games

In February of 1989, Jerry Jones purchased the Dallas Cowboys--and in his first officials act, fired head coach Tom Landry.  There was much outrage among fans of America's Team--as Landry had been coach of the Cowboys for 28-years, had won two Super Bowls, played in five Super Bowls and had made the NFL/NFC Championship Game 12 TIMES.  Many 'Boys fans thought Landry had earned the right to decide when he was done coaching--and should have been allowed to announce his own retirement and put in at least one more season on the sidelines.

But that wasn't the way Jerry Jones saw it.  He saw a franchise that had become stale and old-fashioned--and that the rest of the league had passed it by.  Landry hadn't taken the team to the playoffs in three straight seasons and had gone 3-13 in 1998.  I'm guessing there was a meeting where Jones asked Landry to hang up the fedora--but the old ball coach thought he still had the goods and refused--forcing Jerry to drop the axe.

I'm guessing that many of those Cowboys fans who vilified Jones in the wake of Landry firing felt pretty good the next year--when Dallas won just 1 game--but evenutally new coach Jimmy Johnson would lay the foundation for a team that won three Super Bowls in four years.  And those who cried over the firing of Landry were weeping tears of joy as Dallas returned to their rightful place atop the NFL in the early 2000's.

That's the way I see the firing last week of UW Oshkosh Baseball Coach Tom Lechnir.  Thirty years on the job doesn't guarantee you the right to decide when your own sunset is going to be--especially if the results on the field don't measure up to what you achieved for the many years before it.  A new man is in charge of UWO Athletics, and he is entitled to have "his coaches" in place--for all of the programs.  That is the nature of sports, there is no "tenure" to protect those who hold positions--no matter how long they have been with the school.

And I understand the outrage from former players like Jarrod Washburn--who came back for a press conference this week to basically give UWO the middle finger.  There were likely players who felt the same way when Bobby Knight was fired at Indiana, and Woody Hayes was fired at Ohio State, and Paul Brown was fired by the Cleveland Browns (imagine being fired from the team you used to own--and who is named for you!!).  But that feeling should pass quickly--especially if they really do buy in to the belief that the name on the FRONT of the jersey is more important that the name on the BACK of the jersey.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

When $6 BILLION In Taxes Isn't Enough

When is paying $6-BILLION in taxes not considered to be adequate?  When you are the Apple Corporation, and lawmakers want to know why you keep your foreign profits overseas.  This week, Apple executives were on Capitol Hill being grilled by lawmakers--from both parties--as to why they LEGALLY kept profits from foreign sales of Apple products in LEGALLY established foreign subsidiaries.  Nevermind that in 2012 Apple was the single largest payer of Federal corporate taxes in the country--Washington is demanding MORE.

Let's not forget that the $6-BILLION figure is only Federal corporate taxes paid.  It does not include the BILLIONS  in taxes on profits collected by the State of California.  It does not include the hundreds of MILLIONS paid by Apple in state and federal payroll taxes for its American employees.  Or the MILLIONS it paid in Social Security and Medicare taxes.  It does not include the local property taxes Apple pays on their headquarters, satellite offices and hundreds of Apple Stores across the country.

I bought an iPhone 5 last year--and paid state sales tax on it.  Every month the cellular and data bill for that iPhone includes federal, state and local fees.  And I'm not alone, iPhones are the most popular smart phones in the US--and iPads are the most popular tablets--meaning millions of us are paying those taxes and fees as well.

And the profits that Congress is lusting to tax created increased demand for Apple stock--driving up its price on Wall Street.  That, in turn, created Capital Gains taxes.  Apple also paid out handsome dividends to shareholders--which are also taxed at the federal and state levels.  And by increasing the portfolio and retirement account values for millions of Americans, that Apple stock is giving people greater financial security--and making them less likely to require government assistance down the line.

But Congress and the White House and State houses of government don't see all of those other taxes.  All they can see is that additional pile of money kept overseas--and they want some of it. If you believe that $6-BILLION--plus all of the other taxes I mentioned--still aren't enough, then you too can join in on the vilification of  one of America's most successful companies.  But try to keep in mind that even sharks stop eating when they are full.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Enjoy Your Mealworm Loaf!

Now that the United Nations is urging more western civilizations to eat insects as a source of protein in their diets--as opposed to eating the less eco-friendly (but far more tasty) cows, pigs and chickens we've enjoyed for centuries, I have to wonder: How long will it be before public schools start adding bugs to our kids lunches?

Before you scoff at the idea, compare the low-sodium, low-sugar, no high fructose corn syrup, mandatory fruit and vegetable servings, caloric-limited, prepared in a peanut-free environment with vegan and gluten-free alternative lunches served to our kids today (which often leave older children hungry for the rest of the afternoon) versus the hamburger, cheese pizza, corn dog, meatloaf, turkey and gravy, chicken nugget, fish sandwich, grilled cheese served with powdered mashed potatoes and canned veggies along with desserts like rice crispie treats and pumpkin bars with "seconds" available after everyone has gone through the line lunches those of us in our 30's and 40's enjoyed in school.

I can already picture the burned-out hippie lady sitting before the Oshkosh School Board during the public comment section, with her frazzled pony tail and the hemp dress she made calling herself the "Bug Lady" telling members that she has been eating insects for decades and she is perfectly healthy.  She'll even come with "treats" that she made from the bugs she finds in her yard and in the woods just outside of town--passing them around to the Boardmembers.  And because hurting someone's feelings is the worst thing you can do in the educational system nowadays, the Board will eat those treats--smiling and complimenting the "Bug Lady" on how "tasty" and "delicious" her treats are--while the looks in their eyes tell you they are fighting back their gag reflex and wondering if they will have to go to the hospital after the meeting to get their stomachs pumped.

Momentum for insect-laden school lunches will build slowly--likely getting the most support in California and Oregon.  Then a Democratic First Lady (or First Man) will launch a campaign to make it a nationwide standards.  But they won't sell it as a dietary issue.  Instead it will be marketed as a "learning experience".

Children will be able to harvest their own insects and worms from the compost piles out behind their schools.  They will be told that the beetles and grubs and maggots are "helping the planet to stay clean and healthy"--while "evil" cows and pigs are only polluting the water and filling the atmosphere with deadly greenhouse gasses.  And don't forget the "cultural"aspect of bug eating.  The "wiser" peoples of Asia and Africa have been eating insects for hundreds of generations--and never once have they gone to war with each other or enslaved other people to produce or protect their resources.  Plus, bugs are so plentiful, that giant corporate food producers would never be able to corner the market on their production--and profit "on the backs of the poor".

So think twice about swatting that fly or stepping on that ant--and shed a tear when a bug hits your windshield--because you may be taking food off of your children's plates.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Perfect Job

While there is much debate in Madison over the "success" the Legislature has had in creating jobs, lawmakers are close to creating the perfect government job--one that includes absolutely no real duties.  I'm talking about the position of State Treasurer--which could become even less relevant following a vote by the Joint Finance Committee last week to transfer control of the state's unclaimed property division to the Department of Revenue.

As current Treasurer Kurt Schuller would tell anyone with a microphone last week, tracking down the owners of unclaimed property was pretty much the only job he still had.  Now he is left with nothing to do but to "chair" the Public Land Trust meetings twice a month--which he can do over the phone.  Schuller ran on a campaign of eliminating the Treasurer position altogether--and he did try to get a bill passed in the Legislature to do it--but it failed.  So now we are stuck with an elected government position that really exists in name only.  And that pays an annual salary of $68,556--plus state health care benefits and (if you keep the position long enough) a government pension.

Did I catch your attention now?  Yes, the state is offering a position that 68-K plus bennies and potential retirement and you only have to make two phone calls a month.  And you can work from home!  No need to relocate to Madison or rent a place down there during the week.  You can be "Treasurer" from anywhere!  The lake house, the golf course, even your bedroom in Mom's basement!  It's what every recent college graduate who can't find a job in the field of Liberal Arts, sociology and ethnic studies is dreaming about.

Now the "job interview" is a bit of a challenge.  First you have to get 2,000 signatures on nomination petitions--and then you have to convince a majority of people living in that state that vote next November to support you--but with today's social media campaigns that really shouldn't be that hard.  (Honestly, if I hadn't mentioned the current Treasurer's name earlier--you would have no idea who he is--even if you voted for him in 2010.)

I would expect at least a half a million people to file papers to run for Treasurer next year--now that it has become the ultimate "do nothing" position.  Another half million should be in the running for the previous "most useless" state job--Secretary of State--which has been held for the better part of the last 40-years by Douglas (My Father's Third Cousin Twice Removed Was Related By Marraige To Battling Bob) La Follette--and which is losing its main purpose (to publish new state laws) to the Department of Administration.  That position also pays $68,556 a year plus benefits and retirement.  Again, pretty sweet work if you can get it.

The state Treasurer and Secretary of State are antiquated positions dating back to a less technologically advanced time in history.  Audits and public records laws have eliminated the need for an "independent 3rd party" to handle and keep track of the state's money.  And the publishing of state laws can now be done with the simple pasting of a PDF file on a website.  But if our state is going to insist on keeping those positions around--we may as well all try to get our "money for nothing".

Friday, May 17, 2013

Boy, Did We Sell You a Bargain!!

As Rome burns around them, the Obama Administration is still playing the same song on their fiddles.  The lone tweet on White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and President Obama's Twitter accounts were reminders that repealing the Affordable Care Act would cost 25-million people "access to affordable health care".  In addition to ignoring concerns about Benghazi, the IRS/Tea Party controversy and seizing reporters personal phone records, the Administration decided to also pay no attention to a new Congressional Budget Office report that finds ObamaCare will cost twice what we were all promised.

You may recall, the President told Congress and the American people that the "first decade" of the affordable care act would carry a 985-billion dollar price tag.  The CBO, however, finds that the costs will actually be $1.8-TRILLION.  How could the White House have been off by so much?  The answer is one that is common in Washington--they just used very "creative" accounting.

The price tag first floated by the President totaled the cost of ObamaCare from the day it was approved in 2011--leaving out the fact that there would be no actual expenditures (and few benefits) until 2014!  With three years of ZERO dollars figured into the "costs" of the program, it was obviously going to appear much cheaper than it actually would be.  Why so few media outlets chose to ask questions about this at the time remains a mystery.

Now, the CBO is calculating the real costs of the ACA's "first decade" from the day the Federal government  actually starts spending money.  What is scary is that adding those three years to the computation DOUBLES the cost of the program.  And the CBO report doesn't include the higher than expected start-up expenses taken on by Washington--as Republican Governors refuse to take on the costs of setting up the health insurance exchanges that are the key to making ObamaCare work.

I've got to give the President credit, it takes some real cajones to sell somebody something at twice the price they thought they were paying and then to keep reminding them what a "great deal" they got.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

How To Speak Obama-ese

I've come up with a new way to handle questions that are uncomfortable or that I don't want to answer anymore--I am going to respond like a member of the Obama Administration.

I came up with this idea after noticing the Administrations pattern of answering its critics with denial of accountability, and then attempts to basically shout down the questioner until they give up asking for anwers.  Take for example former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton trying to bully Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin:

So the next time I blow off cutting the lawn to go golfing--and tell my wife that I was actually working late--but she finds out, the conversation will go something like this:

WIFE--You went golfing yesterday?  I thought you said you were at work all afternoon and that's why you didn't cut the grass.


And then you have the President himself discussing his "surprise" and "outrage" that the IRS was putting the screws to his political opponents:

So the next time I come home from umpiring and just leave my sweaty clothes in the middle of the floor in the bedroom, the conversation will go something like this:

WIFE--Is there a reason that all of your umpiring clothes are on the floor in the bedroom?


And then Attorney General Eric Holder completes the triple play of obfuscation by belittling Senator Darrel Issa during testimony on the failure to release Justice Department emails yesterday:

So the next time I fail to get something that I am required by policy to do at work--I'm going to put my boss in his place:

BOSS--Hey Jonathan, you never sent me the latest ratings report.


I think I'm going to enjoy being an unaccountable bully from now on.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Just 3 & 1/2 Years of This To Go

Summers in Washington DC are long and hot.  The way things are going for President Obama, this summer is shaping up to be a Faustian journey to a new level of Hell.  The White House is currently fighting off three scandals that according to Oshkosh native Jim Vandehei at, are leaving the President with no friends in Washington.

First you have the battle over who was trying to "control the narrative" when it came to the Benghazi attack.  Everybody knows that President Obama is a militant Islamic apologist who truly believes that the people who want to--and try to--kill us and our allies have a legitimate beef with Western governments and that we should be making concessions in our belief structures and cultural mores to accommodate them.  Do we really need a dozen Congressional committees to investigate that?  Not really.  We all know the real target of Benghazi is Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton--whom Republicans want to grind into the dirt because she is the early frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic Presidential nomination.  (Since Obama was the one who made the deal to guarantee Clinton a high-profile place in his administration in exchange for her and Bill's support in 2008, I guess he should still take some of the blame in this as well.)

Then you have the IRS/Tea Party scandal.  The President has put up his usual "I knew nothing about this and I am outraged that it was happening, and the few 'rogue' people responsible will be held accountable" defense.  While Congress will hold dozens of hearings on this one as well--with similar "outrage" from other Democrats as well--no heads will roll at the White House over this, because heads never roll at the White House over anything. 

And then we have the Justice Department tapping the Associated Press phone records.  I'll spare you the phony outrage as a journalist who "feels violated that my government is spying on me" because what Eric Holder's crew was doing was likely completely legal.  Remember the Patriot Act and how we just had to give the Federal Government so much more power to perform surveillance on us to "protect us"?  Well, this scandal is simply chickens coming home to roost.  However, in targeting the media for scrutiny, the Obama Administration has chosen the absolute worst enemy it can have for the rest of his time in Washington--because he is about to lose the gentle filter that enjoyed from the friendly press room in his first term.

As I mentioned before the November elections, second Presidential terms are inevitably worse than the first terms--both for the politician and the country as a whole.  And when you consider the lack of success this Administration enjoyed in it's first four years--and the start to this second term--this summer won't be the only intolerable period for President Obama.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How I Almost Missed the Greatest Comeback in Hockey History

So there I was last night, sitting on the couch angry and petulant as my beloved Boston Bruins had just given up a terrible 2-on-1 goal to Toronto to fall behind the Maple Leafs 4-1 with 14-and-a-half minutes left to play in the 3rd period of a decisive Game 7 in their opening round series.  I was ready to give up on the game (no team has ever come back from a 3-goal deficit in the 3rd period of a Game 7 to win)--and told my wife that she could turn the TV to whatever she wanted, because I was going to finish my "Lucky 3rd Period Rally Beer", take a shower and go to bed.

But for some reason, she kept the game on while I posted angry tweets about how lazy Milan Lucic is, what a puck hog Jaromir Jagr is, and how Head Coach Claude Julien needs to be fired if he can't get a team ready to play in a Game 7 on home ice.  Andt then Nathan Horton scored a goal for the B's with about 10-minutes to play to make it 4-2.  My first thought was that Boston would either give up another stupid goal to put the game out of reach again--or they would get a useless goal with about 10-seconds left to lose by one instead of two.  But my wife talked me into staying a little bit longer--pointing out how the B's were dominating the play.

After a few more chances to pull closer were denied by missed shots or great saves by the Leafs' goalie, my faith waned again--and as the Bruins pulled their goalie with a minute and a half left for the extra attacker, I could not imagine them still getting two goals to tie the game.  But then Zdeno Chara scored on a redirect with a 1:22 left to play--and all of a sudden its a one-goal game and Boston Garden (or at least the fans who didn't leave at 4-1) was rocking.

And then less than 30 second later the Bruins score AGAIN--with Patrice Bergeron getting another goal and suddenly the GAME IS TIED--and I am a crazy man in the living room--jumping around, screaming and pounding the floor.  Then the Bruins just miss getting ANOTHER GOAL with 8-seconds left as the puck jumped over the stick of Rich Peverly right in front of an open goal--and the regulation ends in a tie. 

As I took a hurried shower during the intermission, this feeling of dread came over me.  "They've lured me back in with the miracle rally--but now they will break my heart by losing it on a soft goal in overtime."  I reluctantly cracked open a "Lucky Overtime Beer" and settled in for the crushing defeat.  And there were some scary moments--but a rebound put-back by Bergeron again five minutes into OT made everything right with the world again.

And to think, I would have missed this little slice of unadulterated joy if my wife hadn't convinced me to keep the faith.  Thanks, Michele!!

Monday, May 13, 2013

What We Can Learn From Toddlers

Having spent the weekend with a two year old and a one year old child, I've come to realize that maybe we Fiscal Conservatives are going about our opposition to the Affordable Care Act the wrong way.  Like toddlers, Liberals want what they currently do not have--even though they already have more than any child their age had in past.  And the more you tell them they can't have what they want, the more desirous they become of that object.  And just like a two year old, when The Left finally gets what they so badly desired for so long, the novelty of it quickly wears off and they give up the item (usually slightly damaged) and move on to a new object that they are told they cannot have.  It is only when the threat of having that first item taken away from them again that they get all concerned about it--even if they haven't even looked at it in months.

We are already seeing that loss of interest in the reaction to the Obama Administration's lack of progress on setting up the infrastructure to handle the ACA.  There should be protests in front of the Health and Human Services building every day demanding more work on setting up health insurance exchanges--you know, the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT PIECE IN MAKING OBAMACARE "WORK".  And what is needed to help small businesses decide if they are going to offer coverage to employees--or just cut them loose and pay the "non-coverage" fee--I mean tax.  Instead, Liberals have already moved on to their next crusade--I believe it is gay marriage.  Their interest won't return to health care coverage until there is a serious effort made to repeal the ACA--and then it will be important to them all over again.

And Americans as a whole are bit like little kids as well.  We tire of our toys--especially those that are "guaranteed rights".  We as a nation have gone to war a few times to protect the rights bestowed upon us by the Constitution.  But when it comes to actually exercising those rights, we fall a little bit short.  The First Amendment guarantees us the right to practice whatever religion we want--but only 80% of Americans belong to a church--and a smaller percentage actually go on a regular basis.  The First Amendment also guarantees us the right to redress our Government, but every year just a handful of people turn out for budget hearings at all levels of government.  The Second Amendment guarantees the right to own a gun--but only 32% of households actually have one (legally).  And the 15th, 19th and 26th Amendments guarantee all of us the right to vote for our leaders--yet the average turnout for all elections (not just the Presidential ones) is about one-hird of eligible voters.  What's more, in each of those cases, the percentages have been steadily declining over the years.

So if the Liberals were correct in calling "Affordable Health Care" a "right", Americans will show continuously less and less interest in exercising their "right" to it.  That would mean ObamaCare will result in fewer people going to the doctor and seeking expensive procedures and medicines as time goes on--primarily because you still can't fix laziness and bad habits through legislation--but also because no one would be telling them they can't anymore.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The REALLY Hidden Costs of ObamaCare

The state of California has come up with a novel way to ease concerns about the cost of administering the Affordable Care Act--they aren't going to let anyone know how much is being spent on the program.  The Associated Press reported this week that the amount the state is paying for Covered California will not be subject to open records laws.  As noted in the article, this means hundreds of millions of dollars a year will shielded from public review--and nobody will really be able to tell if the Affordable Care Act is actually making care "affordable".

Supporters of the coverup claim it is necessary to ensure fairness in the bid process for contracts with private companies.  If other firms knew how much the state was paying for Service X, someone could come in with a lowball offer the next time around and "steal" the contract. (Which when you think about it, would save taxpayers money--but the ACA isn't about saving money it's about building a larger Democratic voter base--I mean ensuring everyone gets access to quality health care!!).  Yet, similar bidding processes for things like road construction, public employee health insurance and lottery administration are all subject to open records laws--how is running a health care exchange any different?

What few details have been fleshed out in the report show the extent of "non-medical" expenses the exchanges will generate.  My favorite is $19-million for "marketing".  One would think that if people are so desperate for health insurance coverage that you wouldn't need to run a lot of ads telling them it's available.  Instead, they would be actively looking for any available program on an almost daily basis.

What's most disappointing is that this secrecy measure was included in the original bill creating California's exchange program back in 2010!  Where were the reporters uncovering this coverup back then?  They were probably too excited to tell the stories of how "life changing" the Affordable Care Act was going to be for the millions that won't be footing the bill.  Or maybe, it was just another of those things that we had to "pass the bill to find out what's in it".

Fortunately, we here in Wisconsin won't have to worry about state government trying to cover up the costs of administering ObamaCare.  Governor Walker has told the Federal Government that it can handle all of that exchange work--meaning people in California can help pick up some of that cost as well.  At least they will be able to see how that money is being spent in Washington--since they won't be able to at home.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What Does It Take To Get A Guy Un-Elected Around Here?

I ask that question following yesterday's victory by former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford in a special election for a seat in the House of Representatives.  Sanford is a former governor because he lied about hiking the Appalachian Trail a few years ago and was actually in Argentina to be with his mistress for five days.  Sanford resigned "in disgrace"--only to resurface about four years later to not only win the Republican primary, but to also beat Stephen Colbert's sister in the general election.  The pundits are calling it an "amazing political comeback".  I'm wondering what the hell is the matter with the voters in that district?

I guess I shouldn't be surprised.  We Americans have a history of holding our elected representatives to the lowest standards.  Ted Kennedy killed a woman and tried to cover it up--and he was never seriously challenged for his Senate seat.  If  Bill Clinton had been eligible to run again in 2000--do you think Democrats would have passed on nominating him again?  Jesse Jackson, Jr was overwhelmingly voted back into Congress last year--despite being indicted on campaign fraud charges.  Newt Gingrich left his cancer-stricken wife for a much younger woman--and people were still giving him campaign cash and voting for him in primaries last year.  John Edwards is probably looking at that and thinking "Maybe I shouldn't throw out all of those yard signs and campaign funds request forms just yet."

And this is not just a national political phenomenon.  We have state legislators with OWI, disorderly conduct, domestic abuse and prostitution offenses on their records--all of which occurred during their terms in office!  And then there are Mayors with multiple drunk driving offenses and City Council members with criminal trespassing offenses and even restraining orders against them--yet they continue to go back to City Hall as "representatives of their communities".

I find these politicians to be the biggest benefactors of "party identity politics".  They continue to win not because people see their ideals in them--but rather because they have the capital "D" or "R" next to their names.  It's like voters say, "Yeah, I know he's a sleazeball.  But he's the sleazeball of MY party--and there's no way I'm letting the sleazeball of the other party take that seat!"

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Sometimes You Just Have To Play

It's probably a good thing for Derrick Rose that Vince Lombardi isn't the head coach of the Chicago Bulls.  Lonbardi's players talk about how the legendary coach told them that there is a difference between "being hurt" and "being injured".  He was once quoted as saying "Nobody is 'hurt'. 'Hurt' is in mind.  If you can walk, you can run".  The point being that pain comes with sports and athletics--and unless there is actual physical damage to your body (and even then it had better be significant damage)--a player is expected to be on the field.

Which brings us to the former NBA Most Valuable Player Rose--who suffered torn knee ligaments during the 2012 Playoffs--but has been medically cleared to play by the team doctor for two months now.  However, he has decided to bench himself--saying that he is not "mentally ready to play" yet.  I picture a meeting of Rose and Coach Lombardi going something like the scene from the movie Patton where George C Scott comes across a man suffering from shell-shock in a medical facility full of men who have had their limbs blown off or have been shot in the guts and starts slapping him and questioning his manhood.

Making Rose look even worse is that the Bulls have several other players who have battled through injuries to continue playing in the Playoffs.  Joachim Noah is playing on an ankle that will require reconstructive surgery as soon as the season is done. Kirk Hinrich is playing with a deep thigh bruise. And guard Nate Robinson played through the stomach flu last week--throwing up into a garbage can on the bench, and then heading back out onto the court again to lead the team to a Game 7 win on the road against Brooklyn.  It makes you wonder how Rose can look at his teammates in locker room after these hard-fought victories and still feel like they respect him as a "leader".

Maybe someone should put together a "highlight reel" for D-Rose of the Hall of Famers who gutted it out through real injury to continue to help their teams win.  I would start with the painful footage of Ray Nitschke literally dragging one leg down the field to return an interception for a touchdown against the Detroit Lions. Or Jack Youngblood playing on a broken leg in the Super Bowl.  Or footage of Bobby Orr playing on two knees with no cartilage in them so the bone would just grind against bone, but still weaving his way through NHL defenses to score for the Boston Bruins.  Or Kirk Gibson hobbling to the plate to swing on one-leg and hit a game-winning homer against Dennis Eckersley in the World Series.  Or Bob Gibson breaking his leg getting hit by a line drive in the World Series and continuing to pitch.  Or Willis Reed limping onto the court at Madison Square Garden to hit his first two shots over Wilt Chamberlain to inspire the New York Knicks to the NBA title over the Lakers.  Or even Tiger Woods walking four rounds in the US Open and winning with torn knee ligaments AND a broken leg.

If the site of all those guys gutting it out--for far less than the $16.4 MILLION that Rose is making--doesn't inspire him to be "mentally ready to play", perhaps he should consider another line of work.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Let the Revitalizing Begin!

Now that we have cut the ribbon and opened the rooms, it's time for the new Best Western Premier Waterfront Hotel to do what many have predicted it would do, and lead the revitalization of downtown Oshkosh.  With a modern hotel attached to it, the Convention Center is now supposed to bring hundreds of people downtown on a regular basis--people looking to spend their money.  But will it be the quaint and quirky shops--and the college bars currently down there that get that cash?

When they are on the road, people look for a bit of familiarity in whatever city they are in.  Perkins, IHOP, and Dennys are standbys for breakfast.  A quick, cheap burger or tacos are always popular for a quick meal option--and people look for McDonald's, Burger King and Taco Bell signs near their hotel.  Not in the mood to leave the room (and not interested in paying the outrageous prices for room service)?  Dominos and Papa Johns make pizzas here in Oshkosh just the same as they do in your hometown.  Are those going to be some of the new businesses that sprout up around the hotel?  And where would they locate?

Another thing people look for on the road is a place to pick up necessities.  Toiletries, personal items, clothing, and medications are always forgotten or run out--and people like to be able to buy those at any time--and on any day.  I'd be hard pressed to give you the name of a store in the downtown area that stocks stuff like that (and no, the average guest is NOT going to Dollar General) and is open late.  A Walgreens would fit the bill for nearly all of those items--do they buy back Opera House Square?  Or would CVS like to fight another two year battle with the City Council?

And if the hotel is truly successful, that will breed competition--as other hoteliers and chains look to get in on some of that action as well.  (They should probably keep in mind that they won't have the built-in advantage of UW Oshkosh sending all of its guests to them--or the Convention and Visitors Bureau recommending convention guests stay there)  RB Hospitality did the same thing in downtown Appleton, choosing to offer a more upscale experience and building the Copperleaf Hotel near the Paper Valley.  A cheaper alternative would probably work better in Oshkosh--so where would you put a Days Inn or a Super 8? 

My recommendation would be in that blighted area east of the Leach Amphitheater.  It would provide a much better-looking alternative to those peering out their windows on the upper floors of the Best Western rooms that don't face the riverl.  Although, not many hotel guests would appreciate trains running right next to their rooms--so that spot may not work either.  The old Pioneer site is probably too valuable--as is the rest of the riverfront property on the south shore for a lower-scale hotel location.

Some of you are probably pointing out that Oshkosh already offers nearly all of the dining, shopping and lodging options that I listed above.  And with everybody comfortable with using the GPS units in their vehicles or the smartphones, our downtown event and convention guests would be more willing to travel to find them.  And while that represents more dollars spent in Oshkosh, that really doesn't help in the revitalization of the downtown does it?

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Wrigley Conundrum

Imagine if the next time you went to the Paine Arts Center and Gardens the "Castle" had been replaced by a modern strip mall--and the art on the walls was now being shown on giant hi-def video screens.  It wouldn't be the same, would it?  And you likely wouldn't want to go back again, right?

Well, that is the situation facing those who enjoy going to watch baseball games at Wrigley Field in Chicago.  Owner Tom Ricketts is issuing threats that he will move from the venerable stadium on the North Side if he is not allowed to make 800-million dollars in improvements to Wrigley and the surrounding neighborhood.  Ricketts claims that the Cubs are leaving hundreds of millions of dollars on the table by not having giant advertising signs in the outfield, or a video replay board to air commercials during games.  He also wants to have a hotel attached to the stadium to capture more revenue.  All of this will, of course, come at the expense of the experience of actually watching a game at Wrigley.

You may have noticed that I didn't use the term "Cubs fans" when describing those who come to Wrigley.  I--like about a billion other people in the world--HATE the Cubs.  But--like millions of others--I love Wrigley Field.  I like parking in Kenosha, taking the METRA train to Evanston and then riding the Purple and Red Line trains right to the ballpark.  I like stopping at the bars and little shops in Wrigleyville.  I love sitting in the sun on a beautiful summer's day watching a game.  And most of all, I like being able to just watch a game.  At Wrigley, you actually have to pay attention to what is happening on the field.  There are no replays.  You need to know the players, because their faces are put up on a screen 50-feet tall every at bat.  And your second baseman's .184 batting average--or your "closer's" 21.35 ERA isn't on display either.  Plus, there's no Kisscam, Fan of the Game, out-of-town highlights, commercials for the "Official car of the Cubs", dot races, fireworks for home runs or "walk up songs" for hitters.  There is an organist playing the same songs for the last fifty years.  Wrigley is the last Major League venue for the "classic" baseball experience.

That's not to say a few refinements aren't necessary.  The bathrooms are disgusting--and there aren't nearly enough of them.  The seats were designed for the 5'5" person of the early 1900's--not the 6'3" men of today and the locker rooms don't even meet modern minor league standards.  But what Wrigley does not need is a monstrous video board distracting us from the real reason we go to the ballpark--and that is to watch the game.

So if Mr Ricketts wants to put up his hotel and his clubs and even advertising signs to block the rooftops from being able to see into the stadium from across the street--go ahead.  But if he decides to turn Wrigley into the "multi-media experience" that he thinks today's 15-second-attention-span "fans" demand--he may find out that his greatest revenue source was actually not having a bunch of "revenue sources".  To paraphrase the voice from the cornfield in Field of Dreams, "If you don't build it, they will still come."

Thursday, May 2, 2013

What is Your Life Worth?

What is your life worth?  I'm not asking in the context of the monetary value of your life insurance policy or estate--but rather, if someone committed a criminal act that resulted in your death, how long should that person spend behind bars?

Of all the things we cover in the courts, sentences for homicide cases are the least consistent.  A girl who was sober at the time decides to drive well above the posted limit on a rural road in the dark and kills three friends gets a year in jail--with release privileges for school and work.  A boy driving while drunk and high crashes on a rural road and kills two girls gets 16-years of prison time.  A guy operating his boat while drunk crashes into a seawall and kills a friend gets probation only.  A guy driving drunk and killing his girlfriend gets 15-years prison.  A father sets fire to his house to kill his three kids so he can "start his life over again" gets three consecutive life sentences.  A woman who beat her baby to death 57-years ago very nearly got just 45-days in jail.

But a Sheboygan County judge stepped in yesterday and handed out a much stiffer penalty than that.  That woman ended up getting a 10-year prison sentence after the judge--correctly--pointed out that anything less than that would unduly diminish the severity of the crime.  Yes, the mother is now old and frail--but she got to enjoy a lifetime of freedom that her child never did.

So if I am to die as the result of a negligent or intentional act, here are the guidelines I would like the presiding judge to consider in handing down punishment:

Killed by a drunk or drugged driver: THE MAXIMUM SENTENCE ALLOWED BY THE LAW.  Drunk driving does not happen by accident.  The perpetrator makes a conscious decision to not only drink, but also to drive--ignoring the danger that they present to the public.  This goes for any relatives or friends I might be riding with at the time of the crash.

Run over while riding my bike through a roundabout: THE MAXIMUM SENTENCE ALLOWED BY LAW--but not for the driver.  I want that sentence served by the Department of Transportation engineer who included the roundabout in the intersection reconstruction project.  They are the ones who created the situation that would eventually lead to my death.

Shot to death by a liberal upset by comments in My Two Cents: COMMITMENT TO A STATE MENTAL INSTITUTION FOR LIFE.  Obviously, they already have some kind of diminished mental capacity if they support the Affordable Care Act or Carbon Taxes--and they should be getting the psychological care they need after taking it out on me.

Stabbed to death in my sleep by my wife for not bringing the laundry up from the basement after being asked to do so a fourth time: TIME SERVED.  I'm sure she would claim it was justifiable homicide--and an all-female jury would likely agree.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Pot Nation

Buoyed by their recent victories in referenda in Washington and Colorado, supporters of legalized recreational marijuana are putting on a full-court press to get laws amended nationwide.  The Obama administration has been saying that it will continue to enforce the federal ban on pot--even in states where it was "legalized"--but given their penchant for selective enforcement of laws (and constitutional amendments) I doubt that is going to happen.

I get a kick out of how "420 Nation" portrays their drug of choice.  "It won't cause cancer like cigarettes" they proclaim.  "It's less addictive than caffeine", they brag.  "It does less brain damage than alcohol" they proudly state.  But for me, it's less about the physical effects of being a pothead and more about the societal effect it would have.

I have a friend who works in the HVAC industry.  He says two-thirds of applicants at their shop never come in for their drug tests in order to be hired.  Here we are in this "depressed economy" where there are "no good jobs available" and two out of every three people applying for good paying (and yes, union) jobs at one business would rather keep smoking dope than get one.

I follow a few comedians and musicians on Twitter that are also popular with the weed crowd.  One of the neat things about social media is that it provides you a window into the lives of people you would never otherwise meet.  And I can tell you that the timelines of those who like to smoke the bud is anything but a Cliffs Notes version of The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People.  There don't seem to be many posts about "Negotiated a big contract today that will net me a five-figure commission!" or "I aced that Advanced Statistics final!" or even "Paul Krugman really nailed it on the head with the New York Times Op-Ed piece about broke European governments really needing to increase their spending to get out of their financial crises."

Instead, those recreational users can't complain enough about having to get up before noon to go to school or work,  how much they hate school or work, how it's getting harder to afford their marijuana because they don't make enough money at their job, and how cool their new pipes or bongs are.  (Oh and by the way, some of these Twitterers are right here in Oshkosh and the Fox Valley--if you parents would like to do a little research on young adults you know.)

So if the push for legalized pot comes to Wisconsin, we will have to make a decision: do we want these losers sitting behind bars, or do we want them out and about driving our kids to school, fixing our brakes, manning our cash registers and providing our health care?