Friday, June 28, 2013

The Sword of Damocles

Now that the Supreme Court is done distracting us with rulings on topics of lesser importance, let's get our focus back on what really matters: the economy.  Specifically, the impact the Affordable Care Act is having on our sputtering recovery.  We are six months out from the full implementation of the ACA, and it sits like the Sword of Damocles above everything that we do.  But unlike Dionysius II, who put Damocles' fate in the strength of a single horse hair, President Obama has guaranteed that this sword will drop upon us on January 1st.

Small businesses continue to be affected the most.  A new Gallup poll shows nearly a third of such firms have scaled back plans for growth due to the expected cost of the Affordable Care Act.  Some of them already have laid off employees to minimize that cost.  As any non-Keynsian economist will tell you, small businesses are the real engine of the American economy--and if that engine is stuck in neutral (or going in reverse), it's going to be pretty hard to get the recovery going full speed ahead any time soon.

However, those business owners could find some relief in a most unexpected way: the Immigration Bill approved by the US Senate this week.  You see, a little known provision in the bill--which prohibits what would be newly-non-illegal immigrants from collecting entitlement benefits--makes them inelligible to receive the government subsidies for health coverage.  That would mean their employers would not have to pay the ObamaCare fine--I mean tax for constitutionality purposes--for not providing them with health insurance.  That would make such workers--who are already willing to work for less than their legal citizen counterparts--an even greater value to employers.  At the expense of those Americans for whom the Affordable Care Act was supposed to cure all of their ills.

Adding insult to injury is that as we "learn more about what's in the bill", the more supporters of the ACA want out.  Joining members of Congress and a number of major unions are Democrats in Massachussetts--where President Obama claims he got the idea for the ACA--in asking for a waiver from the requirements of the law.  It turns out that ObamaCare is much more expensive for citizens and for the state than RomneyCare is.  How's that for a sharp stick in the eye of those who refused to vote for Romney because this whole "mandatory health care thing" was hung on him like a hairshirt in the last election?

Of course, the Affordable Care Act wasn't about expense, growth of government, or winning elections.  It was about getting the uninsured coverage that they so desperately want.  Except those very people don't actually want coverage.  Another poll show as many as two-thirds of the uninsured in the US will STILL forego coverage--even though the law requires them to--and the Federal Government has commited trillions of dollars to give it to them.  How's that for gratitude?

If 4th Century BC Sicily had been facing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, I think Damocles would have cut the horse-hair himself.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Money Talks, Bitchin' Walks

I have some advice for Country USA attendees who are complaining this week about parking issues, the wait to get into the parking lots every night, the cost, the mud, the lackluster lineup of headliners and the behavior of other attendees: If you don't like it, don't go.

The intensity of the complaining has been ramped up this year after the parking lots were shut down Tuesday night and all of those people blocking two lanes of Highway 41 from South Park back to the Causeway were told to find their own way in.  That was followed by yesterday's decision to allow only those with VIP tickets or handicapped plates to park on the grounds--while everyone else was directed to far-flung public parking lots spread out around Oshkosh that would be serviced by shuttle buses--for a $15 fee.

As someone who lives near Oshkosh West High School, I was not pleased to see that parking lot on the list.  The last thing we need is busloads of drunken out-of-towners dumped off at 2:00 AM to find their way out of our neighborhood.  Fortunately, I didn't hear any jacked-up, mud-covered pickup trucks with Confederate flags roaring down our street while getting ready for work this morning.

I notice that the Country USA complaints always start with "Every year...." which leads me to ask them "If it's a problem every year, why are you surprised or upset when it happens again?"  Every year the campgrounds turn into a mud bog--so why don't you stay in a hotel?  Every year it takes two hours to get from 41 to the parking lot--so why not leave earlier in the day?  Every year it takes two hours to get out of the parking lot--so why don't you, again, leave earlier and beat the traffic?

Invariably, my suggestions are met with "Well, they should still do something about...."--and I just cut them off.  You see, "they" don't have to do something, because even if they don't do something, you will continue to give them your business.  Starshow Presents doesn't put on Country USA and Rock USA because they want to "make Oshkosh a more enjoyable place to live or visit".  They do it to make money.  And to address the problems out there would require spending money--in the case of improved traffic flow and ground conditions--a lot of money.  But as long as the complainers are still willing to plunk down cash for tickets, campsites, parking, beer and glow sticks every year--nothing is going to change.

 Besides, for a good percentage of the attendees every year, Country USA has nothing to do with music.  To them, it's about gettin' drunk, gettin' high and gettin' lai....uh, friendly with members of the opposite sex.  And if that means standing in mud up to their ankles--that's what ya gotta do to git 'r dun.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Forever 1965

Hey all you Cool Cats and Chicks, this one goes out to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and the rest of the liberal minority on the Supreme Court--who believe it will be 1965 forever. 

Ginsberg wrote the dissenting opinion to Tuesday's 5-4 ruling by the high court striking down Chapter 4 of the Voting Rights Act--which required 9-states (and parts of 6 others) to get Congressional approval before making any changes to its voting laws.  The Act was adopted in 1965 following the brutal efforts of Democratic Governors like George Wallace of Alabama and R Ross Burnett of Mississippi to keep in place the Jim Crow laws adopted by Democratic Legislatures decades before to prevent Black participation in the voting process.

To put it into perspective, in many heavily Democratic southern states, Black voter registration in 1965 was in the single digits.  And all efforts to increase those numbers were met with fierce--and usually violent opposition.  That was when the Feds stepped in and basically took away those state's rights to determine their own election laws--in order to enforce the 15th Amendment--adopted by the Republican Congress in 1870.

Unfortunately for the liberal minority on the Court, the drafters of the Voting Rights Act put sunset clauses into the law--allowing the affected states opportunities in the future to prove that they did not need direct Federal oversight of the election process.  Those deadlines have been extended four times since the initial five years passed--but the most recent extension was challenged and taken all the way to the Supreme Court--because Congress based its decision on voting data dating back to 1975.

In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts cited current data--which shows African-American registration in Mississippi at 76-percent--higher than that of white citizens.  He also referred to the change in demographic makeup of many voting district covered by the requirements of Chapter 4 as being radically different than they were in 1975.  In effect, Roberts and the majority left open the possibility of keeping Chapter 4--so long as Congress used current data.

But Ginsberg and the liberal minority don't care about current data.  They truly believe that the people--check that, the WHITE people--of those states will NEVER change their attitudes on race--and therefore must be denied self-governance indefinitely--regardless of the improvements that are born out by the numbers at the polls.  The evidence that they cite?  Ginsberg writes that  Jim Crow laws were in place for "100 years" but the Voting Rights Act has "only been in effect for 50." Are we to assume that in another 50-years the Left will believe that attitudes have changed in those states?  I think the next generation of Ruth Bader Ginsbergs on the Court will still believe the ghosts of 1965 are lurking right outside the door.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I Need To Borrow Some Carbon Credits

In an effort to be as proactive as possible, I'm looking to set up a network where I can pick up a few billion "carbon credits" to use so that I can continue to live a normal life here in America.  President Obama is expected to announce new limits on carbon emissions during his big speech today--and I don't want to get caught unprepared for the hardships that will lie ahead in meeting those arbitrary goals.

First off, I will need all of those people who feel they get enough information to make it through life by reading books and newspapers at the library to send me a few credits so that I can continue to charge my iPhone, run my computer to access the internet and power my big screen TV for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the golf majors.  I will also need some people that bike or ride the bus everywhere to give me their credits so I can continue to drive to all of the places that are too far away to ride and that don't lie anywhere near bus routes.

If the guys who play disc golf could pass over a few credits so that the "real" golf courses that I play can continue to operate their mowers, that would be great.  I'd also appreciate it if the folks that tie their canoes to the tops of their Priuses and spend a week paddling the Boundary Waters every summer could let me use their carbon allowance so that the wife and I can fly to Florida, Hawaii and Australia.

I'll probably also need the guys who make a living selling hemp products at all the farmers markets around the area to let us use a few of their credits so we can keep the giant antenna on the northside of Oshkosh powered up--allowing me to continue to make my living.  The composters with their "Michele Obama Gardens" in the back yard probably have a few carbon credits to spare so I can get an Iowa Corn Fed Beef steak every once in a while.  And if the people that ferment the "green juice" in their basements could send a few credits over to the Leinenkugel's Brewery in Chippewa Falls so I can continue to enjoy Summer Shandy on a warm July evening that would certainly be appreciated.

So if all of you who take such great pride in "helping to save the planet" could just contact me with a way to pick up your carbon credits I'll start putting together my list.  It will be saved right next to the list of people willing to give up their spot in line ahead of me for rationed health care in the future.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The War of the Roses--21st Century Edition

In case you are wondering what debt-free couples argue about since there are no concerns about money, I can tell you it is things like air conditioning.  I'm sure that I have mentioned before that I like it hot.  90's and muggy?  No problem.  However, my wife is of the opinion that anything over 70 is too warm for humans to exist on the planet and cold air must be pumped on her at all times in those conditions.

That is now leading to discussions about what is the best way to cool our home in the summer.  We have employed through the window AC units in the past--but having just replaced all of our windows, we would prefer not to beat them up with the installation and removal of those units anymore.  So the choices are narrowed to the ductless systems sold by Mitsubishi Electric or installation of central air (and ductwork) throughout the house.

Personally, the ductless units are the preferred choice--as it is cheaper and requires less construction work inside the house.  My wife is partial to central air--as it will keep the house at a constant (and likely too cold for me) temperature every day.  But the catch is, the budget to pay for that work won't be met until after this summer--meaning no relief for her this season.

I know people like to call such home improvements "investments"--but to me an air conditioning system is akin to buying a boat.  And as any boat owner will tell you, buying one is definitely not an investment.  Sure, when the weather is nice, you use the boat--but for the vast majority of the time, it just sits there.  And does using something just a few days a year really justify the expense?

Furthermore, our overly-air conditioned buildings require us to stay shut in 12-months out of the year.  Whenever I visit people with central air, they have all the doors and windows closed--because they don't want the cool air getting out.  One of the things about winter that drives me crazy is that your constantly locked in--with no sun coming in.  Give me some natural light and breeze blowing through!

And the AC culture has also changed the way our society interacts.  You know why houses used to have porches?  Because people would sit on them to escape the heat building up in the house.  And when they were outside, they would actually talk to people passing by on the sidewalk and get to know their neighbors (usually through complaining about how hot it is).  Now, everybody pulls into the climate-controlled garage, closes the insulated door and hurries into the sealed house to huddle under their HVAC vents for fear of melting if it gets over 68-degrees.

So join me on the NO AIR CONDITIONING side.  Open those windows! Sit in the shade! Make some lemonade or iced tea!  And enjoy the cycle of the seasons we have here in Wisconsin--instead of living in hermetically-sealed environments where nothing ever changes.  If it helps, just remember the ice storms of April--that should cool you down.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Vacation From Effectiveness

My wife recently pointed out--and rather astutely, I might add--the incredible differences in the approaches (and effectiveness) of marketing campaigns for tourism in Wisconsin and Michigan. 

The folks at the Michigan Department of Tourism (and their ad agency partners) win awards every year for the TV ads they run--featuring the dulcet tones of Michigan native Tim Allen over beautiful sun-lit shots of sandy beaches, lighthouses, rolling hills of color-drenched fall forests and boats cruising through the waters of pristine lakes.  All tagged with the easy to remember (and perfectly fitting) tag line: Pure Michigan.  It's the kind of ad campaign that reminds you why you take a vacation--to get away from the stress and strain of everyday life to just enjoy some beautiful peace and quiet.

Compare that to the TV ads produced by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism--which portray us as being a bunch of klutzes.  Much was made when David Zucker of Airplane fame was tabbed to direct the ad--which features his favorite "muse":Robert Hays (not a Wisconsin native) in a series of pratfalls involving falling off the dock, falling back onto the dock and getting slapped in the face by a fish.  And can you--of the top of your head--tell me what the tag line is from that ad?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller? (It's "Drop in!"--I had to watch it twice to figure that out myself.) (And nice job by former TV hostess Stephanie Klett to include herself by doing the voiceover work--the 10 viewers she had on Discover Wisconsin are probably happy about that.)

Wisconsin has just as many sandy beaches, lighthouses, rolling hills of color-drenched fall forests and pristine lakes as Michigan does--but you would have no way of knowing that based on what Tourism officials have chosen to promote in their ad campaigns.  (On the state site, there are some other ads that apparently run outside of Wisconsin featuring a mock Seinfeld episode--which would have been timely 15-years ago--but is probably lost on a number of viewers today.)  Take it from some other people that work in an advertising-driven medium--you aren't selling anything to anybody with your weak attempts at slapstick humor.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Quick Hits

Another late night overtime Stanley Cup Final game has me a little scatter-brained this morning--so I'll just give you some quick hits on a handful of topics.

Republicans are trying to paint the Democrats in the Assembly as "quitters" for not actually bringing any of their 211 budget amendments to the floor on Wednesday--and instead just calling for a vote on the package with hardly any debate.  The truth is if you don't have the votes--you don't have the votes.  There is no sense then in going Don Quixote and continue to tilt at windmills.  Besides, no voters are going to check on WisconsinEye to see if Democrats actually "fought against" measures in the budget like they will all claim on their campaign advertising next year.

I had to give a thumbs up to Representative Gordon Hintz of Oshkosh on Twitter and Facebook yesterday for his reference to Boba Fett in a press release on his opposition to the legalization of bailbondsmen in the new budget.  For those not in the know, Boba Fett is a cult favorite character in the Star Wars films who is trying to collect a huge bounty on Han Solo.  It would have been easy for Representative Hintz to pick the lame "Dogg the BountyHunter" as his cultural reference--but he went Old School instead and made me smile.  That being said, have bailbondsmen working in Wisconsin might thin out the file I have here in the Newsroom of cases currently on hold because the defendant has skipped town on bond.  I believe those on the Left always like to say "Justice delayed is Justice denied."

I expect a flurry of angry feedback from UW System officials following a report that claims they are doing a very poor job of teaching future teachers.  The education programs throughout the System get low ratings--including a 1&1/2 star for UW Oshkosh and their elementary education program and one star for secondary education.  However, I would argue that the UW schools are merely providing their customers with what they want.  Read the "mission statements" of districts in our area.  Here what Oshkosh has for their mission:

 The mission of the Oshkosh Area School District System is to create citizens who are critical, creative thinkers, responsible in their actions, and committed to learning for life by working together with families and communities. 

Do you find the terms "skills" or "knowledge" anywhere in there?  If that isn't what schools are looking for--why train instructors to be able to provide them?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

There Goes Society.......Again

Who could have imagined that furry Muppets could be so controversial?  Sesame Street is raising some eyebrows again by introducing a character that has a father in prison.  Producers of the children's educational show point to studies that show one out of every 28-kids has a parent who is incarcerated now--more than those who have parents serving in the military overseas.  It follows the introduction of another character last year that featured two moms.

"Alex" is not a part of the regular Sesame Street that airs Monday through Friday on PBS.  He instead appears in the Little Children, Big Challenges series that is featured in on-line vignettes and special DVD's that are meant to be shown to kids facing those issues--so you don't have to worry about your kids asking you awkward questions about prison life.  And from the preview on the internet, it looks like the adults in the feature don't try to feed little "Alex" any left-wing garbage about how his father is the "unfortunate victim of a vast right-wing conspiracy to destroy minorities by locking them up and taking away their civil rights."

However, this even-handed approach in the video is not keeping those on the Left from raising those very same arguments.  And again, it is not the people who commit the crimes who are in the wrong here--but rather it is those who demand accountability for one's actions who are to blame.  Nevermind that hardly anyone ends up in prison by "accident".  And that the vast majority of those behind bars are multiple-time offenders who violated probation or parole for previous crimes.  They also like to blame the "war on drugs" for boosting the incarceration rate.  Apparently for them, it would be better to have neighborhoods and communities filled with potheads, crackheads, and strung-out heroin junkies than to have them devoid of people trying to push that stuff on the very kids who got too old to watch Sesame Street just a year ago.

While it is certainly not their job to raise our kids, the producers at Sesame Street should probably spend a few episodes of the regular show on ways to STAY OUT OF PRISON.  Bert and Ernie could have a nice discussion about how America is a nation of laws--and that there are consequences beyond just "feeling shame" in violating those laws.  Elmo could dedicate an entire week to the word "DON'T" as in DON'T start doing drugs, DON'T start selling drugs, DON'T steal other people's stuff or money, DON'T break into people's houses or cars, DON'T kill people, DON'T try to kill people, DON'T buy guns if you aren't allowed to own a gun, DON'T have sex with people who DON'T want to have sex with you, DON'T molest little kids, DON'T take inappropriate pictures or videos of kids and trade them on the internet, DON'T pretend to run a day care center to collect millions of dollars from the Wisconsin Cares program, DON'T drink and drive, DON'T run over people while sending text messages on your phone, DON'T hold people hostage in your house for 20-years, DON'T offer to have sex with people for money, DON'T pretend your child is sick to get people to give you money and DON'T try to sneak into another country without proper permits.

All of that might sound a little difficult to a young child--but have Big Bird assure them that 27 out of every 28 parents in our country still manage to do that.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

He Doesn't Know the Definition Of........

That low rumbling sound you hear this week is the growling of Wisconsin Congressman Mark Pocan's stomach.  Pocan is partaking in the "SNAP Challenge"--buying only the amount of groceries for himself that someone on Food Stamps would be able to purchase.  As Pocan is telling anyone with a camera or a microphone, that would be just $31.50 a week--or $1.50 a meal.  (I don't know if Pocan's boyfriend is also partaking in the challenge--as that would double the amount the household can buy.)  The Congressman says his goal is to show that it is almost impossible to "live" on Food Stamps--and that Republicans are evil people for wanting to REDUCE THE INCREASE in the program's budget as part of the new Farm Bill.

Pocan is partially correct, it would be darn near impossible to live on Food Stamps.  But what he seems to be forgetting is that Food Stamps aren't supposed to represent your entire grocery budget.  The "SNAP" in "SNAP Challenge" is the acronym for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program--the "official" government name for Food Stamps.  Please note the use of the word SUPPLEMENTAL.

Webster's defines supplemental as: Something added to complete a thing, make up for a deficiency, or extend or strengthen the whole.  Food Stamps are intended to "add to" a person's personal grocery budget--not to serve as someone's entire food budget.  If that is what is was supposed to be it would be called the COMPREHENSIVE Nutrition Assistance Program.  The expectation of the Food Stamps program has always been that you spend some money on food--and Uncle Sam will help you out a little bit to put more in the refrigerator.

Actually, the word "Supplemental" appears in a number of big entitlement program titles.  Medicare is actually Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance--while Social Security provides some beneficiaries with Supplemental Security Income.  Nowhere in the titles of those programs does the word "Comprehensive" appear.  Yet Democrats continue to claim that Food Stamps, Medicare and Social Security should pay out at levels that require no outlay at all from recipients.  And it's why they partake in publicity stunts like the one Congressman Pocan is trying this week--to show how "little" is provided to those on the dole.  All the time, failing to mention that those receiving the benefits have always been expected to put a little of their own skin in the game.

We've known for some time now that those on the left can't handle basic math by the way they expand entitlement programs without ways to actually pay for them and failing to balance budgets.  Now we know that we need to get them dictionaries along with calculators.

Monday, June 17, 2013

How To Succeed Without Even Trying

Faced with the realities of fewer jobs, lower wages, more long-term unemployment, higher taxes and greater debt created by their fiscal policies, the liberal elite face a potential backlash from supporters frustrated with a lack of "success" in the business and financial world.  Rather than re-examine the plans they have put in place, those on the left have instead launched an effort to just re-define the concept of "success" in America.

I stumbled across a New York Times  article this weekend about a conference in New York City focusing on how to live a "new successful" life--which, you guessed it, involves less money, less financial security and of course, less work.  The conference was hosted by Arianna Huffington--whose own success came from dating and marrying rich guys--and Mika Brzezinski--who comes from a family of wealthy European diplomats.  Ms Huffington told the 200-people sitting in her LIVING ROOM that "The way we define success isn't working. More bigger, better--we can't do that anymore."

In other words, folks "I got mine--but you should learn to live without."  Forget upgrading to a bigger house for the family, or the summer cottage on the lake, or the classic sports car, or early retirement.  The things that our parents and grandparents worked hard for and were able to save up to buy in the past--will not be available to you in the future.  Your money and resources will be better spent on the collective--in ways decided upon by the government.

Huffington and Brzezinski therefore believe that our focus should be on the non-material things, like getting enough sleep, meditation and "spiritual renewal".  They believe a truly successful person will be well-rested and not stressed out about anything.  Going through life with Zen would certainly be nice--but unfortunately, naps and meditation don't pay the bills.  And they don't feed the kids and they don't put products on store shelves.  They also don't put men on the moon or cure cancer either.

But those who decide to adopt this effort to redefine "success" in America will feed right into the liberal agenda.  You're spending more time at home with the kids--but can't afford to take care of them?  Don't worry, there are government programs that will feed, shelter and even babysit them.  Don't work enough hours to pay for maintenance of your car?  We'll provide you with public transportation and subsidized high-speed rail to get you around.  You'd rather paint landscapes than balance the books in an office?  We'll pay for your health insurance.  Being happy never put any money in your retirement accounts?  We'll provide you an income and pay your medical bills when you are old.

If this is going to be the new definition of "success" in America--I guess I'll dream to be a "failure" who works hard and provides for himself.

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Dangerous Precedent

The folks at the EAA can call their decision to pay the Federal Aviation Administration for air traffic control services at this year's Airventure a "one time thing" all they want--but they have to know that they have opened the door to making this a "permanent thing".  The PR people at EAA are spinning this as "paying a ransom"--however, the bean-counters in accounting are probably already creating a new line item in the annual budget for "ATC-Airventure".

There are few guarantees in government, but one of them is that if people are willing to pay for something on their own, politicians are more than happy to allow them to continue to pick up that cost.  (EXCEPTIONS: Anything that might get them a large amount of votes; i.e.--free healthcare, babysitting, food, private school tuition, etc).  Now that the EAA has shown a willingness to fork over 450-thousand dollars to pay for the Pink Shirts to come to town, what incentive is there for the FAA to find room in the budget for that service next year?

And let's give the bureaucrats at the FAA some dap for the way they are handling this situation.  It would have been very easy for them to just eliminate two or three Assistant Regional Vice Presidents to save this same $450K--which no one was would ever notice--but they chose the far more public and painful budget cut--just as was ordered by the Obama Administration.  And they shrewdly billed this out not as providing the actual controllers at Oshkosh during Airventure--but rather this money will be used to pay for the people REPLACING the people sent to Oshkosh.  That makes it seem like not paying the fee would endanger fliers at dozens of other airports around the country!  Well played, FAA!

EAA isn't the only local organization falling into this trap.  Recently, the Brown County Board approved paying for additional prosecutors in their District Attorney's office.  Assistant DA's salaries are covered by the state--but the Legislature wasn't adding more money for additional prosecutors anytime soon.  Of course, Brown County supervisors included language in their resolution that the county would pick up the cost of the prosecutors "until the state picks up the cost".  Well, you can bet your bottom property tax dollar that will never occur.

As for those attending Airventure in the future, I would advise you to budget for an "FAA Fee" or "Air Traffic Control Surcharge" that will be added on to their admission fees from now on.  The precedent has now been established.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Win It For Martin

Ever since the Boston Marathon bombings, my Twitter and Facebook avatar hasn't been the usual Boston Bruins logo, or San Francisco Giants logo or even an in-action picture of me playing golf.  It's been a photo of Martin Richard--the 8-year old boy killed in one of the blasts.

I came across the picture while scanning stories on the bombings days after the events.  In it Martin is at TD Garden--standing down near the glass.  He has on a Bruins cap and a Bruins sweatshirt--along with a big, toothy grin that you'd expect on an 8-year old spending a day with Dad at the hockey game. 

To me, that photo really humanized the Boston tragedy.  A lot of times you see photos or videos of victims and you don't really feel any connection to them.  But seeing Martin in his Bruins gear at the game really touched me.  Here was a little guy that shared the same love for the greatest team in hockey with me.  Hell, he could have been my son (and I've had a few people ask me if that is a picture of my son--I wish I could say it is).  And so I decided to make that my avatar, so that every time I'm on Facebook or Twitter it reminds me (and my followers and friends) of what was really lost on Patriots Day.  Martin was going to stay until the Bruins were eliminated from the Playoffs.

And a couple of weeks ago, it looked I would be posting a new picture--as the B's were sleepwalking through a game 7 loss to Toronto in the first round.  But then came a miracle third period rally--followed by an overtime goal--and the Bruins survived.  Since then, the team has been dominant--winning eight out of their next nine games.  And now the B's open up the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks tonight.

When the Bruins won the Cup in 2011--I felt like the win was for all of us long-suffering fans who had remained loyal through a 39-year championship drought that included a few close calls.  Martin Richard was 6 when Boston hoisted the Cup that night--probably too young to appreciate what it all meant.  But by 8 you start remembering the players names--and sitting through a whole game is less of a challenge--so a championship this year would have been even more special for him.

I hope the Bruins can bring home the Stanley Cup this month in honor of Martin Richard.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Puttin' on the Ritz

By now we've all had a good laugh over the letter to editor taking Oshkosh to task for what we wear when going out to eat.  Being a Pittsburgher--and not a "local"--the letter's author must not be aware that Supper Club doesn't exactly equal "fine dining".  Although, I have been to a few of the fancier restaurants in this area and still seen T-shirts, jeans and shorts during the summer.

It's probably a good thing that the letter-writer didn't have to attend a court hearing while in Winnebago County--he really would have been taking us to task then.  As someone who is in a courtroom on a regular basis, it shocks me what people consider "proper attire" for the proceedings.  Nothing tells a judge that you are taking your most recent drunk driving arrest seriously like wearing a Bacardi Rum or Jack Daniels t-shirt to your sentencing hearing.  My other favorite is when people wear Packers jerseys or sweatshirts to court.  And don't get me started with the folks that can't take out their multiple facial piercings to testify on the witness stand.

It's also a good thing that Mr. Letter-to-the-Editor didn't conduct any job interviews while he was here.  The tie racks must have been pulled from the men's sections at all area department stores over the past few years.  How else to explain the belief that showing up with an open collar is somehow acceptable?  Belts without gaudy buckles and dress shoes that don't double as skating shoes are apparently unavailable to today's recent college graduates as well.

With the US Open returning to Merion Golf Club this week, a lot of focus has been on the history of the event at that venue.  It's cool to see Bobby Jones playing golf in a dress shirt and tie in 1930.  And in the photos of Ben Hogan winning there in 1950 you see most of the fans have come to the course wearing shirts and ties.  I hope to someday soon travel to Scotland and play some of the historic courses over there--and one of the things the guide books make very clear to American visitors is that you MUST wear a COAT AND TIE to be admitted into the clubhouse--even if you just want to use the bathroom.

Is lack of proper attire for social and public settings as grave a threat to society as the entitlement attitude of today's younger generations?  No.  But it does exemplify the lack of self-worth and discipline that comes with putting a bit of effort into your appearance.  And it certainly epitomizes the lack of respect that we have for others--including those in authority and those who serve us.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Just Ask Us For It

One of the talking points we are going to hear over and over again from Democrats during the upcoming budget battle in Madison will be that "Wisconsin Taxpayers want more funding for public education."  That will be the argument against the $752-million tax cut plan and the expansion of school vouchers (which I STILL do not support in any way, shape of form).  But if it's true that we "all" want to spend more for schools, we sure have a funny way of showing it.

How else to explain that 54% of all school referenda seeking to exceed the state-mandated revenue caps for recurring expenses have failed.  Of the 927-referenda proposed by school boards since the caps went into effect in 1990, 499 have gone down to defeat--and another handful were canceled before even going to the ballot.  (I did not compile the results of building-related initiatives--however a cursory check of the database shows those have gone down to defeat at a slightly higher rate.)

Those results however, are a bit misleading.  In sorting through the referendum database, I found what you could call the "Goldilocks Pattern".  Districts will usually come out with a large referendum package--which gets shot down.  That is followed (sometimes in the next election cycle) with a medium-sized pacakge--which also is defeated.  Then they come back again with a much-smaller funding request and voters finally say "Yes".  Although, the White Lake School District once lost a referendum for an extra $25-thousand a year just to hire an additional maintenance person.  But it is clear that if school boards take their case to the people of the district--and show a real need for additional funding above what the state and current property taxes can provide, voters will give them what they see as a "fair" amount of money.

So why don't Democrats just encourage school districts to seek this "end run" on the Republican budget proposal?  There are three reasons.  One, going out for a vote forces districts to be much more public with their spending.  If elementary school foreign language is a line item buried in a regular budget, who pays attention to it?  When you need to beg the voters to pay for that independently, they tend to turn a more critical eye toward the program.

Secondly, an increase in state taxes to pay for education is far less noticeable in a resident's budget than an increase in local property taxes.  More education spending in the state budget means a smaller refund from Madison every April--something that might slip under the radar.  A referendum victory means a higher property tax bill every December--which people do tend to notice more. 

Finally, it is far easier for groups like the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the Wisconsin Association of School Boards and all other groups that believe all of society's ills are due to not enough government spending to back big money campaigns for 50-members of the State Assembly and 18-members of the State Senate to achieve their financial goals than it is to back 457 school district referenda.

So the money is there for public education.  All school boards have to do is ask us for it--and prove that it really is needed.

Friday, June 7, 2013

We Did This To Ourselves

As a customer of Verizon Wireless I would like to express my OUTRAGE that all of my cellphone and data download information is being provided to the National Security Administration without a warrant.  This egregious breach of my Fourth Amendment right to freedom from search and seizure and my Fourteenth Amendment right to due process is unacceptable--and frankly, scary.  Now, the person responsible for this intrusion must be held accountable--and that person is: Me.

That's right, I, Jonathan Krause--and all other Americans who tolerate assaults on our Constitutional rights to privacy and due process--are wholly responsible for this "scandal".  I sat idly by as lawmakers in the wake of 9/11 demanded greater powers for the Federal Government to spy upon us in order to "prevent another 9/11".  I wrongly assumed that warrantless wiretapping would only be used on "real terror suspects"--not investigative reporters.  And I subjected myself to electronic strip searches and "additional screening" at airports--along with elderly women and babies--even though I don't fit the profile of any hijacker in American history.

We have done this to ourselves folks.  When no one challenged the first traffic camera used to issue citations for running red lights or speeding--when we are guaranteed the right to face our accuser in court--traffic cameras started showing up at nearly all city intersections.  When no one objected to the use of facial recognition software to scan crowds of people for the appearance of wanted criminals or suspects, more cameras were hooked up to the system.  When no one said they didn't want drones flying over our country monitoring our movements, drones became a common form of surveillance.

Maybe the Verizon "scandal" will be the camel that breaks the camel's back and swings the pendulum in the Freedom Versus Security debate back toward the side of Freedom.  Because as we continue to find out, Benjamin Franklin was 100% correct when he said in the pre-Patriot Act days of the 1700's:

Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.



Thursday, June 6, 2013

Cutting Off Your Nose to Spite Your Face

The all-nighter pulled by the Joint Finance Committee Tuesday night into Wednesday morning must have made the Republican members delusional.  How else can you explain the last-second inclusion of a measure requiring UW Madison to give the Center for Investigative Journalism the boot off campus?  The CIJ operates at no cost to taxpayers, pays its own rent and utilities for use of campus offices, and gives students studying journalism a great chance to get some "real world" experience--without getting "real world" pay.  Wednesday's vote is simply a few powerful lawmakers having an axe to grind--and using the state budget to swing that axe.

I have to say, I find the decision to go after investigative journalism a bit puzzling.  It has been the work of those reporters that have given the GOP some of its best talking points--both in Wisconsin and nationally--over the last few election cycles.  Who uncovered the scam employed by the Milwaukee County family that stole millions of dollars from the Wisconsin Cares program by setting up phony daycare centers and claiming to watch phony kids?  It certainly wasn't the Department of Family Services.  They continued to pay those people--EVEN AFTER THE STORIES ABOUT THEIR SCAMS WERE PUBLISHED!!  And without investigative journalists how could we have known about the flourishing black market for FoodShare cards on Facebook? 

I don't think Verizon Wireless or the National Security Administration sent out press releases yesterday touting the fact that the Federal Government has been reviewing ALL PHONE RECORDS--not just those of suspected terrorists or Associated Press reporters--for some time now.  And Solynra and Tesla weren't calling press conferences to announce that every tax dollar in "grants and loans" that they got for their renewable energy projects had been flushed down a very large toilet.

Even on a smaller scale, the GOP benefits from investigative journalism.  What undermines the "we are underpaid" claims of public sector unions better than publication of all public employee salaries and benefits--allowing comparison with those of us in the private sector?  And what makes a "progressive" school board look worse than reports on their violations of open meetings laws?

With the continued expansion of government at nearly all levels, the need for investigative reporters--and the importance of their work will only increase.  Who else is going to plow through the reams of expense reports associated with the Affordable Care Act to provide the "real" costs--not the sanitized versions the Obama Administration and Democratic governors are going to put out there.

So hopefully, a well-rested and wide-awake State Assembly and State Senate will remove the vindictive and petty measure targeting the Center for Investigative Journalism from the state budget.  Don't we already have enough low-information voters as it is?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Burning the Midnight Oil

Remember back in 2009 when Republicans ripped Democrats in Madison for taking a bunch of late night votes on key budget items?  It's apparently back to the future at the Capitol as the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee reconvened its meeting to vote on the education segment of the budget and a proposed tax cut measure at 3:30 THIS MORNING!  That was after the Committee met until 1:30 am tackling a bunch of other budget items--and then needed a two hour break to shore up votes for the expansion of the School Choice Program.

I want you to ask yourself, how effective are you as a businessperson at 3:30 in the morning--especially if you didn't get any sleep overnight?  How alert to details would you be?  How willing would you be to switch your stance on something--just so everybody starts arguing and you can go home to bed?  And what positive things can you think of that you accomplished between midnight and 5:00 am?

And would you stay up until 3:30 am to keep an eye on the proceedings--especially if it affected you directly?  I'm not asking for any sympathy for the reporters who had to cover the JFC meeting--they are getting paid to stay up all night.  But don't you think school district superintendents would have appreciated a chance to see the vote on School Choice? 

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos proposed putting a curfew on meetings at the Capitol this session.  He too felt budget votes in the middle of the night were poor governance.  But that idea was scuttled--as it was feared that the minority party--in seeking to delay passage of measures they oppose--would use the daily deadline to, in a way, fillibuster and push votes further and further into the future.  So now we are stuck with overnight meetings and sessions that see important legislation debated and approved by bleary-eyed Legislators--out of the view of most constituents.

It's not fair to the lawmakers themselves--and it is certainly not fair to the citizens of Wisconsin.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

There are no greater enforcers of political correctness than those in Academia.  College and high school campuses are to be zones of "inclusion" and "tolerance" and "understanding"--and hurtful words that "denigrate" or "insult" others are strictly verboten.  And that is why it is so interesting when those within the ivy covered walls deviate from the PC script and are caught actually expressing their personal views.

The most recent example is that of Ohio State University President Gordon Gee and his comments to the Buckeye Booster Club.  The following statements were made in December of last year, but did not come to light until last week, when the Associated Press obtained the audiotape through a public records request (otherwise, nobody at OSU was going public with what was said that night).  Gee first decides to take his shots at the the folks at Notre Dame.......

“And I want to make it very clear, we have never invited Notre Dame to join the Big Ten. And the reason is the fact that they — first of all they’re not very good partners. I’ll just say that. I negotiated with them during my first term and the fathers are holy on Sunday and they’re holy hell on the rest of the week. You just can’t trust those damn Catholics on a Thursday or Friday. Literally, I can say that.”

Gee followed that up with an attack on the schools in the Southeastern Conference.........

“Well you tell the SEC when they can learn to read and write then they can figure out what we’re doing. I’ve been down there. I was the chairman of the Southeastern Conference for two years. I’ll tell you something. It’s shameful. It really is.”

Again, these comments were made in December of last year--and were heard by some members of the Ohio State community.  But I cannot find any stories from that detailing any outrage on the Columbus campus.  And since the AP broke the story last week, I still haven't seen any reports of on-campus protests calling for Gee's immediate firing nor any Faculty Senate votes denouncing the comments.  All there has been is outrage on sports talk radio (outside of Columbus) and a "strongly worded warning" from the OSU Board of Trustees telling Gee that he could be fired for comments like that again in the future.

So where is the outrage?  Where are the calls to boycott Ohio State sports or classes or merchandise?  It's nonexistent because Gee attacked those that those in Academia believe deserve to mocked.  "Catholic priests?  These are men living in the Stone Age with their pre-modern beliefs in marriage, abortion, science and gender equality.  They've got it coming!"  What to you think the Ohio State response would have been if Gee had questioned the trustworthiness of Muslim clerics?  (Maybe, Buckeyes Head Football Coach Urban Meyer--a Catholic--should tell a few jokes about Mormons--Gee's religion--as his first fall practice press conference.)

And Gee's second target--student-athletes (specifically football players)--also have it coming in the minds of your average college prof.  "They don't go to class, they get special tutoring, they don't even deserve to be in our halls of higher learning.  And their coach doesn't deserve a $5-million dollar salary--he doesn't even teach!"  Never mind that the vast majority of SEC football players are African-American and come from a socio-economic situation that would make it darn near impossible for them to set foot on a college campus if it wasn't for a sports scholarship--to Gee (and his cohorts) these are people "unworthy" of the college experience.  How long would he hang on to his job if he questioned the college-worthiness of trans-sexual students?  Or the African-American women in southern colleges today? 

Gee also had one more target in his speech--former Badgers Head Coach Bret Bielema........

“Someone was saying to me, well, you know, Bret Bielema leaving … that was a blessing for Wisconsin and they knew it. Because he was under tremendous pressure. They didn’t like him. Barry Alvarez thought he was a thug. And he left just ahead of the sheriff.”

We'll give Gee a pass on this one.  Bielema actually does have that coming.