Friday, July 26, 2013

Something's Missing

I had a chance to review Senator Tammy Baldwin's speech from the floor of the Senate on the student loan bill this week  In her allotted ten minutes, the Senator listed various government programs--the GI Bill, the Stafford Loan Program, Pell Grants and Federally Guaranteed Student Loans--that are available to college students.  But nowhere in that ten minutes does Baldwin make any reference at all to saving money to pay for college. 

Thinking that perhaps she had skipped over that section to stay within the time limit for debate, I checked the text of the original speech sent to us by Baldwin's office.  But again, no mention of parents and students putting away cash or taking on extra jobs to pay for education.  If the Senator was going to take a Government-centric view of paying for higher education, she could have at least promoted Tax Code Section 529--which allowed states to set up College Savings Plans for parents--where contributions are allowed to grow tax-free while invested in relatively conservative funds.  You can even arrange to have the money automatically withdrawn from your checking account each month to save you the "hassle" of having to send in a check.

The Senator could have also mentioned the Lifelong Learning or the American Opportunity Tax Credits--which allow students or parents to directly subtract a portion of the tuition expenses from their federal income tax bills.  That credit is almost always larger than a student loan interest deduction that those who choose to borrow for their educations take on their returns.  One would think that if Senator Baldwin and her Democratic colleagues were so worried about the "indebtedness" that college graduates and parent face, they would do all they can to help those people limit the amount that those people have to borrow.

They could start by increasing the tuition tax credit.  Follow that by increase contribution limits on 529-plans--or make the money going in tax-deductible.  And since the Federal Government will be spending in excess of 600-MILLION DOLLARS to remind people that is now the law to have health insurance under ObamaCare--maybe Uncle Sam could use a couple mill to also remind people that YOUR SON OR DAUGHTER WILL LIKELY WANT TO GO TO COLLEGE.  YOU HAVE 18-YEARS TO PLAN FOR THAT, WE SUGGEST YOU START SAVING MONEY TODAY!!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Detroit Broke City

Now that we know the name of the Royal Baby, perhaps we can return our attention to things that are actually important here in the 21st century--like the bankruptcy of one of the largest cities in the country.  Detroit is so far beyond broke that both city and state officials admit there is no way to get out of the hole without writing off nearly all of that debt.  And how did that happen?  Well if you believe those on the left, it is the usual culprits for all social ills in America: corporations and affluent white people.

Article after article after article villify those most likely to have a conservative bent in their political beliefs--all the while failing to mention any of the Democrats who were running the city since 1956.  Instead, it's the automakers' fault for outsourcing work and improving efficiency in production.  Nevermind their crushing commitments to pension and health insurance plans for retirees and the increased cost of production due to more restrictions on carbon emissions and more expensive electrical consumption at their plants in Detroit.  And other corporations are to blame because they sought incentive packages from Detroit to bring or keep jobs in the city--even though similar enticements were being offered by suburbs with more land available and brand new infrastructure and lower tax rates. 

While these pundits blast what they like to call "corporate welfare", they heartily applaud President Obama for his trillion dollar bailout of the GM and Chrysler--which is nothing more than "union welfare".  The Big Three would have continued to manufacture vehicles in Detroit--even in bankruptcy.  And the process would have allowed them to get out from under the contracts that represent the second largest expense on an American-made vehicle today.  But the President chose the short-sighted bailout route--which just kicks the can farther down the road.  However, those pension and health benefit bailouts were good news for places like The Villages, Bradenton, Sarasota and Winter Haven, Florida--where those UAW retirees have flocked to spend their golden years--and to avoid having to pay any state income tax, which of course could have been used to help Detroit.

And that brings us to the other "villains": the middle and upper class whites who left the city for the suburbs starting in the 1960's.  Robert Reich--the former Clinton Administration "economic guru" is harshest on these folks--accusing them of leaving the city behind to rot.  In Reich's world, everyone should remain stuck in small urban houses with no backyards, no garages, nowhere to park and no big box stores or mega-malls conveniently located right next to the six-lane expressway.  That is why I am sure that he lives in a small brownstone in San Francisco while he teaches at Cal-Berkley.  Perhaps he forgot that those surrounding communities are the result of the "strong unions" getting the higher wages for those auto workers--who in turn parlayed that income into the best lifestyle they could afford?  And what does that say about minorities when you argue that they are totally incapable of maintaining an economy--or a society--without "the support" of whites?  Maybe he should talk to Magic Johnson--who has made more money out of basketball by putting his movie theaters in some of the "worst" neighborhoods in America.

There is one point that the Socialistas are correct about--a broke city should NOT be paying hundreds of millions of dollars to build a new hockey arena.  If Mike Illitch needs a new home for the Red Wings that badly, he can add 25-cents to the price of every Little Caesar's pizza he sells across the country for the next few years.  I think that we can all agree, Detroit has more important things to worry about than that.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Thank You, Mark

Last week I grabbed a quick lunch at one of the fast food places over here on the west side of town.  As I pulled up to the first window of the drive-thru to pay, I was, I guess you could say, "greeted" by a scowling young woman with her hand out the window.  There was no "hello"--not even a reminder of what my total was--just an extended hand.  And when I gave her exact change, she put the money in the till and closed her little window--going back to scowling at her computer screen.  No "thank you"--no "have a nice day"--not even a "you can pull ahead to the next window to pick up your order."

Having worked in customer "service" in the past, I was pretty offended by the lack of courtesy and basic human interaction that I had just received.  So when I pulled up to the second window, I told the man with the Shift Manager name tag on that he should probably tell the young woman working the cash window to at least acknowledge customers while waiting on them.  He was a bit flustered and apologetic and told me that he would let her know.

Fast forward now to yesterday.  My news-gathering travels took to me to Appleton during the noon hour, I so I decided to stop at one of my favorite places: Five Guys Burgers and Fries.  Upon entering the door I received a hearty welcome from the middle aged man working the counter.  He also asked me how I was doing--and chuckled when I replied "I'm doing great.  I'm having lunch at Five Guys!"  While I sat at my table waiting for my order to come up, that same guy was a flurry of activity in the kitchen area, getting burgers on the griddle, dropping orders of fries, filling bags--all the while singing along to the classic rock songs and telling people "NUMBER 75, COME ON DOWN YOUR ORDER IS NOW READY!!"

Perhaps it's a shtick the chain wants it employees to put on for the customers, but it seemed like this guy really enjoyed what he was doing.  And when he came out to wipe down some tables and check on how my food was I told him, "Thank you for enjoying your job so much."

His reply caught me off guard as he said "It's been tough.  My wife passed away from cancer two months ago, but this helps keep me focused on other things.  She was diagnosed in November and passed away in May." 

Needless to say, I was caught completely off-guard by that.  He then showed me a picture of the two of them--big smiles on their faces--standing in front of a marina.  "She always had a smile on her face just like that.  So now I try to make other people smile to honor her."

I'll admit, I was getting a little misty-eyed, but I told him "Well, you've done a good job of putting a smile on my face today."  I then asked him his name--it's Mark--and wished him the best.

On my way back to the office, I was thinking about Mark and about the young woman who had been so unfriendly the week before.  I wish that I could take her--scowl and all--up to Five Guys to meet Mark and have him tell her his story.  Because I doubt that whatever had put her in such a bad mood the day I came to her restaurant was 1/100th as horrible as what Mark experienced--and yet here he is making so many other people happy.

So if you ever stop at Five Guys in Appleton and you see Mark doing his thing (he wears glasses and has some gray hair on the sides) just let him know you appreciate his efforts.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

As George Washington Spins In His Grave

On July 4th of 1776, 56 men (including one Arthur Middleton--likely related to the Duchess of Cambridge) signed a document declaring that they no longer wanted anything to do with the English Monarchy.  They felt that power and rule should be determined by the people being governed--not by the birth order of a in-bred, half-mad family.  They felt so strongly about that ideal that they fought two wars against the most powerful army and navy in the world so that we Americans would never have to care if some princess had a baby or not.

Unfortunately, on July 22nd of 2013 you would have thought all of that effort was for naught, as millions of Americans were bombarded by television, radio and internet coverage of a duchess having a baby.  What made this media frenzy even more inappropriate is that the child won't actually rule over anything--unlike a prince born in 1776 would have.  And yet there were all these "journalists" falling all over themselves to project when this tiny figurehead might actually get to wear a crown.

In a way, I guess the media deserves a bit of a break.  Under our form of government, it would be impossible to promote or provide live coverage of "THE BIRTH OF A PRESIDENT!!".  You would have had to be at just the right log cabin in Kentucky, farmhouse in Illinois or mudhut in Kenya (JUST KIDDING!!) to have had coverage of some Presidential births.  Joseph Kennedy, Sr. would have insisted on coverage of the birth of Joe, Jr--not John--as he was the one who was going to be groomed for the White House.

And that is what is so great--still--about America (despite what liberals would tell you about lack of "class advancement"): that anyone can still grow up to be President.  Do you think anybody who shopped at Harry Truman's clothing store left saying "That guy behind the register would make a great President!"?  Or movie-goers leaving Bedtime for Bonzo told each other "If that Ronald Reagan ever runs for President, I'm voting for him!"?  Or that the Harvard students who took Barack Obama's handful of lectures thought "We really should have a Socialist President!"?

We may have just celebrated the accomplishments of the Founding Fathers on July 4th--but there should have been another round of fireworks, parades and backyard barbecues yesterday as well--just to remind ourselves and everyone else that we still have the best system of governance in the world.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Who Do I Feel Sorry For?

Bleeding hearts who read this blog and post anonymous responses to it like to accuse me of having neither sympathy nor empathy for those they feel have been dealt "an unfair hand" by society or life in general.  They wonder why I wouldn't want to pay for everyone's health care, child care, transportation, lodging, food, college education and cell phones.  They wonder for whom do I actually "feel sorry"?

Well I can tell you that I definitely feel sorry for James Frey.  Frey was just recently released from prison after serving more than 20-years for a rape on the UW Oshkosh campus that he likely did not commit.  Reports over the weekend detailed Frey's new life as a "free man": living in a Madison homeless shelter and inelligible for unemployment.  And after 20-years of the state picking up the cost of all his medicines for a myriad of health problems--he can't get those anymore either.

It takes a series of conscious decisions to be a twenty year old with three kids, or a six-time drunk driver, or a heroin addict or a high school dropout with no job, or middle class kid with his own car, cellphone and acne-free skin--but no money for college, or a morbidly obese member of the McDonald's customer of the year club.  However, nobody wakes up and says "I think I'm going to be wrongly convicted of a brutal rape today."  And while we have program on top of program to help all of the people who make all of the bad decisions I listed before, we have virtually nothing for people like James Frey.

The Department of Corrections likes to tout some of the vocational and educational programs it offers convicts nearing the end of their sentences.  But when the doors to the cell open suddenly--and men who have known no other life for decades are suddenly thrust back into a world that has changed immeasurably since they first went in--they get nothing more than a pat on the back, a "sorry about that" and--if they are lucky--25-thousand dollars from the state.  For James Frey, $25k will be just over a thousand dollars for every year of life that he lost due to the mistakes of police, prosecutors and a jury of his peers.

There was once another high-profile, wrongly convicted rapist set free years after his initial conviction here in Wisconsin--who was also sent back into the world ill-prepared for the "freedom" that awaits the wrongly-convicted and newly-freed.  His name was Steven Avery--and we all know how that story turned out.  Let's hope that the society that put James Frey away for twenty years do better this time around.

Friday, July 19, 2013

You Reap What You Sow

Here we go again with another effort to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act and make major changes to other sections.  They include the usual dire predictions that ObamaCare will "Destroy the very health and wellbeing of Americans".  There are political threats being made as well.  I bet you thought I was talking about Republicans in the House or maybe Tea Party members--but this brutal criticism is coming from the leaders of three large labor unions.  The presidents of the Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers and the Textile and Hospitality unions sent a letter to Democratic Congressional Leaders this month demanding sweeping changes to ObamaCare--now that they "know what's in it."

Those union leaders are finding out that the employer requirements included in the ACA will "incentivize" business owners to limit the number of full-time employees they keep on their payrolls.  The unions are also finding out that the health insurance plans that they control (and usually require employers to use as part of their contracts--rather than putting that service out for bid) are not eligible are the vaunted subsidies for which those enrolled in private insurance companies will be given.  And perhaps most ironically, the "Cadillac" plans that those unions demanded not only for themselves but for their retirees as well, will be "taxed" at high levels in order to fund the subsidies.  That makes them even less desireable for employers to offer in the future.

My favorite part of the letter is this section: On behalf of the millions of working men and women we represent and the families they support, we can no longer stand silent in the face of elements of the Affordable Care Act that will destroy the very health and wellbeing of our members along with millions of other hardworking Americans.  I would swear that it lifted word-for-word from every Republican candidates stump speech in 2008, 2010 and 2012.

And the union leaders also want to remind Democrats that they are "owed" these concessions:   We have also been strong supporters of you. In campaign after campaign we have put boots on the ground, gone door-to-door to get out the vote, run phone banks and raised money to secure this vision.  I would respond to this statement using the vernacular of today's youth: "You got played, dudes."

The President and his fellow Democrats told the unions what they wanted to hear, "Everybody will get cheap health coverage", "You can keep your existing plan", "This will actually be good for the economy" and the rank and file bought it hook, line, and sinker--scoffing at the Republicans who made the exact same arguments against the Affordable Care Act that the unions are now making themselves!

I would remind the union folks of an old Biblical passage that applies to nearly everything in life--and especially in politics: You reap what you sow.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A "Miracle" In Milwaukee

A white man in Milwaukee was found guilty Wednesday of first degree intentional homicide in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager.  You may not have heard much about it.  Court TV and HLN didn't provide any live coverage of all the testimony.  "Experts" on MSNBC didn't tell us constantly that anything but a guilty verdict would be the greatest affront to justice in the history of our country.  Fox News didn't mention the troubled past of the victim on a daily basis.  None of the key witnesses didn't post how sexy they were going to look on the witness stand.

When the jury began deliberations, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett didn't urge "certain people" to remain calm. The Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department didn't run PSA's featuring "Urban sounding" actors encouraging residents not to riot.

None of the networks broke into their regular programming to deliver live coverage of the verdict on Wednesday.  Hundreds of "analysts" didn't get in front of cameras across the country to "guess" as to what the jury members were thinking about in deliberations.  Twitter didn't explode with news of the guilty verdict.

Reverend Al Sharpton didn't tell MSNBC that the verdict "restored his faith in the justice system."  Reverend Jesse Jackson didn't call a press conference to praise the jury--even though there was "only" one African-American on the panel.  Beyonce didn't ask her concert audience to raise a cheer in honor of the verdict.  Hip Hop artists didn't tweet "The open season on killing black men is now CLOSED!"

And it was a verdict that up until Wednesday, we had been told was impossible to get anymore in the US.  So how then did it happen?  Could it be because the suspect was arrested and charged immediately--rather than allowing the case to fester ill will in the victim's community?  Could it be because the Department of Justice didn't browbeat the prosecutors into overcharging the case?  Could it be that the State had solid evidence it could present at trial--including a confession from the defendant, video of the shooting and credible witnesses it could put on the stand?  Could it be because Wisconsin has stricter guidelines for the use of deadly force to protect private property?  Or could it be that the jury was presented with sufficient evidence to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt the white man intended to kill the unarmed black teenager on that May afternoon?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

It's All Worth It

After three years of lane closures, overpass closures, detours, reduced speed limits, traffic backups, and crashes, the Highway 41 expansion project in Winnebago County is finally done.  And you know what?  It looks like it will be well worth it.

I had the opportunity to use the new Butte Des Morts Causeway on the way out to and back from Lake Breeze Golf Course yesterday and it was great not having to fight to merge with traffic at either end of the bridge.  The extra lane on each side is perfect for those accessing Highway 45 from the 21 interchange since your lane heads right up the off-ramp.  I'm hoping that will ease the backups we see every Friday afternoon during the summer with people heading up north--and then every Sunday evening on southbound 45 as everybody heads back home.

As much as those of us who can do math hated the "Stimulus Package", it was nice that this work could get done a couple of years earlier than first expected.  Better to go through the inconvenience of all the shutdowns sooner rather than later.  What would the Country USA backups have been like if we still had just the two lanes of 41 south of the Causeway this year?  Those people would still be out there waiting to get into the camping area to get drunk.  (Although I do have to wonder, now that the project is complete, what happens to the "jobs created by the Stimulus spending"?  Those crews got to work earlier--but then also ran out of projects earlier as well.  Sounds like a reason for Stimulus 2!!  Or is it Stimulus 3?  I'm so stimulated, I'm losing track.)

If there is anything to complain about, it would--of course--be the proliferation of roundabouts on all of the side streets passing over the highway.  I'm also not sure why we had to put paintings of fish on the Causeway supports.  I guess boaters want to appreciate some art on their way to Fremont to get drunk.  And I wish that there was a more prominent display to the workers that were killed and injured in the crane collapse.  The DOT is putting a plaque along the walking trail over the Causeway--but I think something that can be spotted along the roadway would be better.

So now it's time to enjoy the benefits of our years of sacrifice.  A faster, safer stretch of highway designed to handle our transportation needs for the next 25-years.  And unlike the Illinois Tollway, we don't have to thrown money out the window every couple of miles (or put a plastic box on our windshields).   Also unlike the Illinois Tollway, the crews aren't going back to where they started and doing it all over again.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Since We've Solved All Other Problems.......

In the early days of our country--when we were a rural, agrarian society--serving in government was a rather arduous endeavor.  It wasn't easy to get to meetings, and often politicians were needed on their farms and plantations, so government bodies met far less frequently.  Congress would never meet during the summer and early fall, nor would state legislatures, school boards, county boards and other bodies--since people had much more important things to do.  And when those representatives would convene, that precious time would be spent on vital issues like budgets, taxes and regulation of commerce and development.

But as America became more urban, more mechanized and more electrified, politicians had to work less at home and therefore had more time to dedicate to their "elected duties".  Meetings became more common and the scope of the issues grew to include many topics I'm sure the Founding Fathers never really considered that Government would really need to cover.  One example of that would be the proposed ordinance in Green Bay that would ban the wearing of saggy pants.

Alderman Dave Boyce is under the impression that people are showing off their underwear as a "shout out" to those in prison and in gangs.  (Apparently, Alderman Boyce hasn't seen a hip hop video in the last 25-years.  Remember when wearing clothes backwards had its 15-minutes of fame, or outrageous numbers of gold chains or ball caps on sideways?  All from rap artists looking for a way to separate themselves from the rest of the talentless pack.)  So what should be precious time spent on far more pressing issues--like finding ways to lower property taxes--members of the Green Bay City Council are wasting time debating if banning saggy pants represents "racial profiling"--and if fat guys who can't admit their pants size has doubled since they were in high school and plumbers should be cited as well for having their butt cracks hanging out for everyone to see.

Perhaps us Conservatives who keep calling for less Government--should also push for Government less often.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Paranoia Will Destroy Ya

I guess the "Big Brother Paranoia" crowd has something else to worry about now--water meters.  Two Fond du Lac couples recently had their water shut off because they refused to allow the city to install new "smart" meters in their homes--which would allow for remote readings.  The couples believe that the water utility is going to use the meters to track their every movement inside their house--knowing when they turn on the sink, when they take a shower, when the flush the toilet.  They also fear that the transmitters on the meters will make them sick.

I had to laugh at the assertion that somewhere in Fond du Lac there is a "Potty Police" monitoring when everyone is flushing their toilets.  Could you imagine getting a knock on the door one night....

"Excuse me Mr Krause, I'm Agent Number 1 and this is Agent Number 2.  We're here because we have noticed increased activity on the toilet in your main bathroom this week.  Care to tell us what is going on?"

"Well I've been eating a lot of corn on the cob and fresh fruits recently--that might have something to do with it."

"Alright Mr. Krause, we're going to issue you just a warning this time.  I'd also advise you to mix in more large cuts of red meat so we don't have to come back here again."

As far as the concerns about the transmitter causing sickness, I sure hope those couples don't have cell phones, or wireless phones in the house.  They should probably get rid of their wi-fi router and remote controls as well.  And just to be safe, I'd recommend they build a giant steel and concrete sarcophagus over their homes to protect them from satellite, TV and radio signals from penetrating the walls and killing them.

The ridiculousness of the paranoia got ramped up even further last week when State Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt of Fond du Lac announced that he would introduce a bill that would allow people to opt out of "smart meter" programs and not have their water shut off.  Thiesfeldt sites "real concern from people" about the issue.  I wonder how many more people are "concerned" about the increased cost to the water utility when they have to hire meter readers again--to visit sporadic locations around the city to garner the same exact information that the smart meters send back automatically.  He might also want to alert Alliant Energy, Wisconsin Public Service and We Energies about the added expense as well--since they have been using smart meters for years.

And when is Representative Thiesfeldt (or any other conservative, Constitution-thumping lawmaker) going to introduce a bill banning the Government from obtaining our cellphone records without probable cause or a warrant?  That is the kind of Big Brother government action we actually do have to worry about.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Bud Had Better Be 100% Correct

So Major League Baseball is about to suspend some of its biggest stars based on the statements provided by convicted felons, disgraced former athletes and underworld figures.  "Sources" who are giving up their information under the threat of criminal charges being filed against them and who have a bone to pick with the stars based on lack of payment for debts owed.  I bet you think I'm talking about what ESPN claims will be the 100-game suspensions of Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun coming up over the All Star Break next week.  Actually, I was referring to Kennesaw Mountain Landis handing down his lifetime suspensions for 8 members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox for throwing games in the World Series.

Landis handed down the suspensions immediately after a Chicago jury acquitted the eight "Black Sox" on conspiracy charges--basing his decision on claims of the gangsters and thugs who turned State's Witness against the players because they didn't "follow the plan"--and cost some even nastier people a whole lot of money.  Claims that a jury of the players' peers decided were not credible enough to warrant a conviction.

I could have also been talking about Bart Giamati's lifetime ban on Pete Rose in 1989.  The Dowd Report on Charlie Hustle's alleged gambling on baseball was based almost entirely on the records of illegal bookies and bet runners--supplemented with phone records from the Cincinnati clubhouse.  However, Rose's case is a bit different, as he voluntarily accepted the lifetime ban--so he could (at the time) deny betting on baseball and betting specifically on the Reds.

And now Bud Selig is going to exercise the power given to him by the owners to act as the Judge, the Jury and the Executioner for a group of players who have never tested positive (and had the test upheld) for the use of performance enhancing drugs.  Instead, Bud's "evidence" will be the claims of an alleged steroids dealer who is facing a lawsuit from MLB and criminal drug charges if he doesn't "cooperate"--and his handwritten records of sales to players.  Records that are so detailed that they include a stray piece of paper with "Braun 10K" written on it.

All I can say is that Bud had better be 100% sure that his "evidence" is 100% accurate.  Because times have changed since Judge Landis threw the Black Sox out of the game for good.  We are a much more litigious society now--and the players now have a powerful union that will back their stars, no matter what the situation is.  And you can bet your bottom dollar, Pete Rose, that any suspension now--without a positive test--will be challenged to the highest levels of the judicial system--before anyone misses a game or a million dollar paycheck.

So Bud had better be ready to put his "star witnesses" and his "rock solid evidence" on the stand before a jury of people (who probably all agree that letting the All Star Game decide home field advantage in the World Series is the stupidest thing in sports) to decide what is and isn't credible.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Timing Is Everything

As we near a verdict in the George Zimmerman trial and the news networks move into hyper-coverage, it's a good time to consider how different this entire storyline would have been if Zimmerman had been arrested on the night of the shooting.  I've mentioned here before that my wife and I were staying with my parents in the Orlando area at the time of the Trayvon Martin shooting--and while we didn't see the local news every night--I can't recall ANY coverage of the incident for the nine days we were down there.

It wasn't until Black leaders and community members started holding press conferences and protests over the non-arrest of Zimmerman--followed by the social media "hoody" campaign--that the story gained any traction.  The non-arrest of George Zimmerman provided the perfect storyline for the 24-hour news channels.  For MSNBC and CNN, there was the implication of racism--not only for the shooter, but for the Sanford Police and the Broward County District Attorney as well, who of course was "refusing to prosecute a white man who shot an unarmed Black teenager!"  Meanwhile, Fox News had the gun rights angle of "a man fed up with crime in his neighborhood, charged with murder for merely protecting himself from a pot-smoking thug!"

Would there have been any national coverage at all if George Zimmerman had been taken to jail on the night of the shooting--and then charged in the usual day or two with second degree homicide or manslaughter?  You would have had no press conferences, no protests, no Twitter pictures of celebrities wearing hoodies and ballcaps.  You would have just had two or three Orlando TV stations at the hearings--and maybe an occasional Fox News story about the gun rights thing.

Instead, we have been subjected to the latest "litmus test on race relations in America".  And analysis of the testimony has been restricted to this very narrow--and legally insignificant factor.  George Zimmerman isn't being tried for racism--yet the nightly discussions of the trial have focused on "Why hasn't the prosecution made race more of a factor in the case?" and "Was the State's star witness 'too black' for the all-white jury?" and "Did Trayvon Martin's comments about the 'creepy cracker following him' do irreparable harm to the prosecution's case?"

The George Zimmerman trial is about one thing: what constitutes self-defense under Florida's "Stand Your Ground Law"?  The "legal experts" covering this case should be parsing that statute trying to explain to us if those who use lethal force are still allowed to do so after basically goading their victims into a confrontation--not breaking down the poor grammar used by "star witnesses".  And that might be the conversation we would be having today, if the incident hadn't been allowed to simmer for weeks and to turn into something that it really isn't.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


I would like to thank Senator Bob Jauch and Representative Janet Bewley for providing a few laughs yesterday--on what was a very hectic and stressful day for those of us in the local news business.  Jauch and Bewley are "horrified" that armed guards have been placed at the site of the Gogebic Taconite mine--and they want them removed before somebody gets hurt.

Nevermind that the armed guards didn't show up until AFTER the mine site was vandalized by 15-people wearing masks and scarves over their faces--and after workers on the site were threatened with personal harm.  Originally, G-TAC posted signs and had "friendly" unarmed security personnel on site.  But the protesters decided to up the ante by moving into the sabotage and threatening stage--forcing G-TAC to up the stakes even more.

It's really no different than the group of neighborhood punks terrorizing the old guy on the block.  It starts with the Doorbell Ditch--and the old guy yelling "GET OFF MY LAWN!!'--and then escalates to flaming bags of dog crap left on the porch--and the old guy coming out with his shotgun--sending the kids fleeing in a panic.  Except in this case, multi-million dollar equipment is being damaged as opposed to dog poop getting on the bottom of some slippers.

What makes me laugh is that once again, the Liberals are siding with the criminals in this case.  There was no howl of protest from Jauch and Bewley after the incident in June.  But now those who committed the crimes of damaging equipment and threatening to do harm to other people are hailed as "heroes--fighting against the injustice that has been wrought upon them"--while the security guards who are exercising their Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms and to protect private property are portrayed as "dangerous thugs intent on intimidating those who are 'peacefully' protesting".

Perhaps Jauch and Bewley would prefer that the local taxpayers pick up the cost of protecting the property and employees of Gogebic Taconite by posting an armed sheriff's deputy or two at the mine site 24-hours a day, 7-days a week.  It is the responsibility of law enforcement to not only investigate crimes that have been committed (which they did after the June attack on the site) but to also PREVENT crime.  And since the protesters have already demonstrated a lack of respect for the laws--and have threatened to do so again, the Sheriff would have a responsibility to have someone out there to keep that from happening.  And maybe, Jauch and Bewley should get rid of their own armed security force--the Capitol Police Department. 

I'm going to make a bold prediction: Nobody is going to get shot at the Gogebic Taconite mining site.  The security guards won't open fire on people holding signs on the road or outside of the G-TAC offices and they won't gun down the "reporters" for Indian Country TV and their "hidden" cell phone cameras.  In turn, the protesters will act like adults and no longer commit crimes against the company.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

ObamaCare: Where the Big Winners Take Home the Bronze

Now that I can rest assured that my employer won't choose to just pay the fine (I mean tax for constitutionality purposes) for not offering me health insurance next year, it's time to make sure that the Affordable Care Act will still allow me to keep my High Deductible Health Savings Account policy.  HD/HSA policies are the antithesis of ObamaCare--as they allow the healthy to limit their expenses--and they give the control back to the consumer--rather than insurance agents or government bureaucrats.

In looking into the "acceptability" of HSA's under the ACA, I found a long trail of dire warnings dating back to the passage of the bill in 2009--that such policies would not be allowed--as they would not "cover enough" of the medical expenses users might incur under the estimates that the Obama Administration is using.  But it turns out, HSA's barely made the "Bronze" level of coverage established by ObamaCare.

What I find interesting is that the most sustainable and cost-effective type of health insurance policy gets the lowest rating possible.  "Platinum" policies--like those provided to public sector employees and union auto workers--get the highest rating--despite being the leading drivers of cost inflation in medical care.  Although, that designation carries with it a special penalty (I mean tax for constitutionality purposes) that is ironically enough forcing some employers--like Winnebago County, Wisconsin--to stop offering those "Platinum" policies.  Other low-deductible policies that also encourage people to rack up medical expenses--without ever seeing the true cost of the care provided--fill out the "Gold" and "Silver" ratings.

Despite our low ranking, we HD/HSA policy holders are the only real hope that the Affordable Care Act has of actually working.  While the President and his lackeys want to take credit for the recent flattening in health care costs over the past couple of years, that slow-down in inflation is more closely tied to the increase in the number of Americans who are choosing HSA policies--and are making informed decisions about what treatments they seek. 

If ObamaCare is going to work--despite its designers best intentions to guarantee failure as a step to a single-payer Government system--you will need a large majority of the population taking High Deductible policies--and using the health care system only when necessary to keep demand pressure (and costs) as low as possible.  Of course, we will still take it in the shorts every April when the IRS hits us with the real "penalty" for our fiscal responsibility.  Nonetheless, I encourage everyone to "Go for the Bronze!!" and do your country proud.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Tuned Out

One of the traps those of us in the news media can fall into is the belief that everyone listens to our newscasts, watches our reports or reads our articles.  I was reminded of that this weekend when I heard about the people that showed up at Menominee Park Thursday night expecting the annual Oshkosh fireworks display--totally unaware the show was scheduled for Friday night.

I know that WOSH aired stories on the date change all the way back in April--when City Manager Mark Rohloff first announced the different date.  We also had stories about the July 5th fireworks all last week.  At least two of the Green Bay TV stations also ran stories last week about the change in date.  They also had Oshkosh listed under July 5th show dates on their websites.  And the local newspapers had stories on the different date in their print and on-line versions.  Sawdust Days mentioned the Friday fireworks on all of their marketing materials and website--and the City itself had it on its webpage.

Yet, there was one woman who showed up on the 4th quoted in a story saying that she had "heard nothing" about the fireworks being on the 5th instead of the 4th.  She had even invited friends up from Illinois to watch the show--and it turned out there was nothing to see.  She went on to wonder why the city "didn't do more to get the word out."

Now the ONLY place you would have seen the Oshkosh fireworks listed as being on July 4th would have been the outside of grocery bags at Festival Foods.  And that was because someone at City Hall forgot to let their main sponsors know about the date change before all those bags went to print.  (I'm not sure how Rick VanderLoop was kept out of the loop on that.)  One would think that the people putting up half the money for the show would get a courtesy call to let them know when that show was actually going to happen.

What I would hope comes from this mass confusion is the realization that those of us who complain about Low Information Voters--or Uninformed Voters--are given a little more credit from now on.  Because if people can't find out the correct date for a fireworks show, how can they be expected to research and understand the economic impact of required health insurance or huge Federal deficits?

Although, I would recommend the candidates and third-party special interest groups consider spending more of their hundreds of millions of dollars on ads printed on grocery bags--that is apparently the most trusted source of news and information for some of the voters.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Pawn to e4

You can now add those without health insurance to the elderly, women and racial minorities as groups the Democratic Party plays like pawns for their political gains.  In 2008 the uninsured were told "Vote for us and we will force your employer to provide you with 'affordable' health insurance!"  In 2009 the Dems delivered on that threat--I mean promise--with the Affordable Care Act--but all of the requirements for coverage were conveniently pushed out to 2014--well into what they hoped would be President Obama's second term--even though we were told time and again that this was something that was "desperately needed!".

In 2010 they ran on the platform of "Keep us in power or your 'guaranteed' coverage will be repealed!".  In 2012 the message was "We are giving you coverage in 2014--reward us with four more years--or it might still be taken away!"  But now--on the eve of delivering what had been promised for nearly 6-years--President Obama and the Democrats are moving the goal line even further away.

If you believe White House "strategist" Valerie Jarrett, business owners were still too confused--after four years to work this out--to meet the coverage requirement.  Add to that, the Federal Government still hadn't figured out--after four years--just how it was going to verify and enforce the law.  Given the pace of action in the monolithic Central Government, that could be a plausible explanation.  But the astute observer would notice that 21-Democratic seats are up for election in the Senate in 2014--compared to just 14-Republican seats.  That means control of the chamber is up for grabs next year--and the last things Democratic incumbents need is a bunch of pissed off voters whose employers decided to drop their health care plan in favor of just paying the fine--I mean tax (for constitutional purposes)--which will actually be cheaper.

Add to that the fact that the individual mandate for coverage is still scheduled (for now anyways) to go into effect on January 1st--meaning those who will remain uncovered by their employers in 2014 will be forced--by law--to purchase their policies in the more expensive health care exchanges.  Of course, Democrats won't focus on the increased costs borne by workers under the Affordable Care Act.  Instead, they will tout the increased number of people who now have insurance (under the threat of a fine--I mean tax (for constitutional purposes)--because of their handiwork!  And what's more, they can run out the tired threats of "You'll lose your insurance if we lose!" one more time.

So enjoy you new status as political pawns, uninsured Americans.  It's the price you pay when you want the Government to provide for your every need.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

More Proof That the Coverup Is Always Worse Than the Crime

Just when you thought the Catholic Church couldn't look any worse in the clergy abuse scandal, Monday's release of thousands of internal documents pertaining to the Milwaukee Archdiocese just made things uglier.  It's hard to decide which is worse, the payments made to "problem priests" to retire or just go away?  Proof that the attempts to cover up accusations continued into the 2000's?  Or the blatant attempt by then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan to salt away cash before courts could order damages to victims?

First, the payments to priests who just couldn't stop molesting boys.  When the church could no longer find new parishes to send these monsters, they gave them $10,000 "bonuses" to find another line of work.  Ostensibly, this action was taken to limit further claims--sort of like saying "Well, he doesn't work for us anymore, so it's not our fault he did what he did."  Doesn't it strike you as odd that the church was more than willing to give money to those who committed crimes--but has fought tooth and nail to avoid giving anything to those who were the victims?

Second, you have continued attempts to cover up accusations all the way into the new Millenium.  One priest in Fond du Lac was accused of molesting boys up until 2002--but nothing was ever passed along to police.  This was also after numerous reports had surfaced about the Church's systematic attempts to cover up allegations dating back to the 1950's--and it was after all allegations were to be reported to the Vatican (where former Pope Benedict oversaw their "investigation").

Third, you have the establishment of the "Cemetery Trust Fund".  As Archbishop Dolan saw the writing on the wall--that the Church was going to owe a lot of people a lot of money--he sought ways to save all that he could.  So he asked the Vatican to transfer assets to a trust fund--which victims would not be able to touch.  And what is a better "shelter" for you cash?  Cemeteries, of course--because they are going to be around forever--and will outlast anyone hoping to get their hands on that money. 

Actually, the thing that offended me the most yesterday wasn't anything that was included in the personnel files.  It was the the statement from Archbiship Dolan--who claimed that "the Church was not equipped to handle the accusations, the victims or the offenders."  Really?  The Archdiocese offices didn't have telephones to call police?  Imagine if the Church had called the cops when the first victims came to them in the 1950's and 1960's?  What message would have been sent to the other molesters that worked their way into the priesthood in the subsequent decades if those first offenders had been sentenced to decades behind bars--and the Church became ultra-vigilant in keeping such people out of the priesthood?  I'm guessing it would have been a lot less embarrassing--and less expensive--that what the Church is facing now.

But no, they chose to keep up the facade of "decency" and "infallbility"--all the while sowing the seeds of this scandal.  And if it wasn't for the bravery of the victims finally going public with their embarrassing secrets, the Church would be more than happy to keep up that sham.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Stealers

Occasionally, I'll do a story on the air about the theft of some incredibly unusual item--like a restaurant statue, dead frozen gophers or fish entrails--and I'll preface it by saying "Here's more proof that people will steal anything....."  This weekend, that statement was proven true again--in my own front yard.

I resurfaced our driveway on Saturday, and that required no one drive on the asphalt for at least 24 hours.  To prevent someone from pulling in without warning, I set up my saw horses and laid a badly warped 2x6 that has been sitting in my garage for a couple of years now across them to block the drive (I know, sounds kind of redneck--but we didn't have any string or rope and a good Scout uses whatever tools are available to him).  To stir the resufacer, I used this old field signpost that my father-in-law had given me for another project a couple of years ago that was also just laying around in the garage.  I left that lying on the end of the driveway to dry out so it didn't drip all over the floor when I put it back.

When my wife went to bed at Midnight that night, the board and the post were still in the yard.  When I got up at 4:30 to get ready for an early round of golf Sunday morning--they were both gone.  We had been visited by The Stealers.

The Stealers are the people that apparently drive around the city looking for things just laying around in people's yards--and taking them.  They are slightly less respectable than their cousins: The Pickers.  At least The Pickers cruise in neighborhoods where the garbageman is due to visit the next day--and they take things that people have already decided to get rid of.  The Stealers apparently work the entire city and don't care if you still have a use for something or not.

I know that most thefts are crimes of opportunity--a thief sees something of value and has a chance to make an easy score.  But the 2x6 was ten feet long--and the post was about six-feet tall--not the kind of items you can easily toss into the back seat or a trunk of a car.  So The Stealers either cruise around in full-size pickup trucks--or they spot what they would like and return with the vehicle or equipment needed to haul it away.

I'm also left wondering what they are going to do with those items?  As I mentioned, the board was badly warped--too much for even the Habitat For Humanity Restore to get use out of it.  I'm imagining a deck or a fence somewhere in Oshkosh built with all of these wavy boards and mis-cut lumber that had a ten foot long hole in it that needed by board.  And did that fence need a steel post to prop it up because it was sagging after the kids in the apartment complex behind your house kept climbing on it to see into the backyard?

I don't plan to call the Oshkosh Police Department to report the theft of my warped board or my sign post.  I would rather the officers dedicate their time to even greater nuisances to our community: People Who Don't Know How To Navigate Roundabouts.  I just want to let The Stealers know that you are truly some of the most pathetic losers in our society today.