Friday, November 29, 2013

What If There Was No !!!!!CHRISTMAS!!!!!

I doubt that when Christians in the Middle Ages started exchanging small fits with each other in celebration of Christmas, they anticipated the holiday would someday grow into a celebration of excess, greed and commercialism that it has become--engulfing a second holiday (Thanksgiving) and becoming a major source of stress (and depression) in many people's lives.  What was once Christmas has now become !!!!!CHRISTMAS!!!!!  But what would have happened if those Christians had not decided that the Feast of Jesus's Birth (and more historically correct, the visit of the Magi bearing gifts on the Epiphany) was a good time to get each other a "few nice things".

What time would you have rolled out of bed today--and Thanksgiving day--if there was no !!!!!CHRISTMAS!!!!!?  Unless you do news for the local radio station, I can guarantee it wasn't going to be 4 am, or 2 am or Midnight.  No one would have been camping outside Best Buy since Tuesday to be first in line this morning.  And all of those people who were flooded with unhappy shoppers yesterday, could have been at home enjoying turkey dinner and the Lions destruction of the Packers.

What would your budget look like every December if there was no !!!!!CHRISTMAS!!!!!?  Would it be easier to make the full property tax payment--instead of accruing the interest to pay in installments?  And what would your January, February, March and even April credit card statements look like?  I bet taking that Florida trip around spring break time would be a lot easier to handle.

Without !!!!!CHRISTMAS!!!!! would you be stressed out because no store within 100 miles of Oshkosh has a PlayStation 4 in stock right now?  Would you be worrying about finding time to send 85 cards to people you haven't spoken to or seen in person for 20 years?  Would you be buying ingredients for dozens of high-calorie snacks when you already have plenty of food already in the kitchen?

What would your kids be like if they weren't getting so wound up about !!!!!CHRISTMAS!!!!!? Would they be starting every sentence with "I want...."?  Would they be getting confused about who is the real "star" of December 25th?  Would they be jumping out of bed and running downstairs at 3 am on any other Wednesday morning?  And would they treat not getting the previously-mentioned PS4 as the greatest tragedy in the history of humanity?

If those early Christians had known what those first few gift-exchanges were going to bring hundreds of years later, they probably would have chosen to mark the day by just spending it in bed.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanks A Lot!

Since this is the season for giving thanks.....

I am thankful that the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act was delayed for a year.  I can guarantee that Cumulus Broadcasting Incorporated would have been one of the first companies to choose to drop health insurance coverage and just pay the penalty--I mean "tax" for constitutionality purposes.  That would have meant even more rants in this space about the failure of the website (which everyone--except Kathleen Sebelius and President Obama fully expected) as I tried to find coverage as affordable at the $30 a month that I pay for my current High Deductible Health Savings Account policy with which I am more than happy.

I am also thankful that I am not in charge of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade tomorrow.  Who would think that a family event like this would become so politically charged?  It started with South Dakota cattlemen raising a stink about vocal vegan Joan Jett being selected to ride on their state's float.  She got moved to a different float.  Then along comes PETA and other animal rights activists who have decided to protest the Sea World float.  They saw the CNN documentary on the treatment of killer whales at the theme parks: Blackfish and have decided that Free Willy needs to happen in real life.  It just goes to show that the term "proper venue" no longer applies to protests of any kind.  And to add injury to insult, high winds may ground the famous parade balloons--meaning Al Roker and Chris Christie will have to fill in as "big, gas-filled displays" instead.

I would also like to thank the lifeguards at the 20th Avenue YMCA in Oshkosh for keeping such close watch over me in the competition pool.  I've decided to add swimming to my fitness regimen--but unfortunately, I have no natural buoyancy.  That means most of my effort goes into not sinking to the bottom of the pool--rather than actually moving forward in the water.  Those lifeguards seem to hover around my side of the pool as soon as I hit the water--waiting for that rare moment that they will actually get to put their training to use.

And finally I would like to thank the people that stop me when I'm out and about around town and tell me how much they enjoy My Two Cents.  I'm glad that I get the chance to make people think or want to change the way things are going or just have a good laugh every once in a while.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How Did They Do It?

For those of us who enjoy the culinary arts, Thursday is the Super Bowl of Cooking.  Huge pieces of poultry that need to be roasted to just the right temperature or they dry out, family-tradition recipes that will draw complaints if they don't taste "the way they always have", and the challenge of having nearly a dozen items time out perfectly so everything can get on the table together.  And just like the players and the teams in the football version of the Super Bowl were better and more skilled in the past--the cooks who put on these huge feasts in yesteryear are much better than those of us today.

I came to that realization over the weekend as I did prep work on the ingredients I would need for the stuffing that I was bringing for our Thanksgiving potluck here at the Radio Ranch on Monday.  Chopping onions, celery and fresh herbs took almost an hour--and I consider myself fairly skilled with a chef's knife. And then it was another hour yesterday morning to mix and bake it.  Plus, I was making just one element of the meal for about 15-people.  One of my grandmothers had to cook for almost thirty people when I was a kid.  And she made a meat stuffing that required her to grind the sausage before she made it.

In hosting my parents and in-laws the last few years at our house, I've had to cook for only six people every year--and that's exhausting.  How did a woman in her sixties and seventies manage to make FIVE TIMES as much food--and have it taste even better?  She peeled all of the potatoes before boiling and mashing them--I leave the skin on (much to the chagrin of my father-in-law).  She boiled her yams, then sliced them and pan-fried them in butter--I just throw one big one in the oven.  She had to make those big 25 pound turkeys that required you to get up at 6:00 am to get in the oven so it was done by 4:00 in the afternoon--I get by with a 12-14 pounder that usually gets done in about 2 and a half hours.  She had to eyeball the bird to know when it was done--I've got a remote thermometer that provides me up to the minute temps and beeps when the meat is done.  Grandma also baked all of the pies--likely from real pumpkins, not that canned stuff and rolling out the dough by hand--I leave the pie-making to my wife now.

And Grandma's reward for all of that hard work with 70's ear cooking equipment?  Having to wait until everyone else had eaten before she got to sit down and enjoy the lukewarm leftovers that her kids and grandkids didn't cram in their bellies.  Sitting with a few of her daughters--while everyone went back into the living room to watch the second half of the football game. 

Today's Thanksgiving feast may be easier--but it certainly isn't better than it used to be.

Monday, November 25, 2013


The next attack on a polite society is about to come at 30,000 feet as the Federal Communications Commission considers lifting its ban on in-flight cell phone calls by passengers.  Apparently, there are so many "important" phone calls being missed by travelers that we need to allow everyone access to their cellular system every minute of their lives.

The airlines can no longer use the "threat to the safety of the plane" excuse for making everyone keep their phones off during flight--as studies have shown having cellular devices on don't threaten the electronics on-board the plane.  But perhaps they could still shut this down by arguing the noise generated by 200-people all trying to have phone conversations at the same time would make it impossible for the flight attendants to pass along important information.

I realize that cell phones are an omnipresent feature of our modern society--and that the rules of common courtesy have been abandoned when it comes to talking to someone on the phone while in the presence of others--often seated right next to you.  But in most other situations, if you are put off by the callmaker or calltaker, you can move somewhere else to avoid having to listen to half a conversation that usually isn't worth the 18-cents a minute to make it on a cellular system.  On a plane, you don't have that luxury.  And given that airlines continue to shrink their seats in all classes--the phone would be as close to your ear as it would be to the caller's.

And here is how every phone conversation in flight is going to go: "Hey man, what's up?...I can barely make out what you are saying, I'm on the plane right now....yeah, the connections not real good....what? The dog is pooping barley?......oh, I didn't think that's what you said....well we won't be landing for another two and a half hours, so there's not a whole lot I can do about it right now.....hello?....hello?.....Oh, I thought I lost you there.....yeah, they allow you to call from the planes what are you having for dinner?, they don't feed you on the flights anymore.....who'd want to eat it anyway.....Ha ha ha!.....What?...I can't make out what you are saying....why don't I just call you after we land?"

And because an airplane cabin isn't exactly the most quiet setting, the above conversation will take place at a level just below a yell.  Then mulitply that by about 200 and you can see what the average flight will be like in the future.  You need only consider that in-flight calling has been allowed for decades--but the exorbitant cost of using the air phones meant only important calls were made.

My biggest fear is that the airlines will not oppose the lifting of the cellphone ban--but will instead use it to generate even more revenue.  This would be the perfect opportunity to charge an extra $20 or $25 per passenger to sit in the "Cellular Use Aproved" section of the plane--while charging those of us who would prefer to not hear what the guy next to us did on his trip yesterday an extra $20 or $25 to sit in the "Non-cellular Section".

As I told my wife the other day, my Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones could become even more valuable than their $200 price tag.

Friday, November 22, 2013

What's Good For the Goose....

The next couple hundred years in Washington are certainly going to be interesting, considering the new rules of government being implemented by the Obama Administration and Democrats in the Senate. 

Let' start with this week's decision by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to employ the "nuclear option" and do away with more than 230-years of history in that body by changing the rules for over-riding a filibuster.  No more will a super-majority of 60-votes be needed to force cloture--now a simple majority of 51 will suffice.  And that same one-vote majority will be all that's needed to approve judicial and cabinet appointees.  Democrats say the change is needed to "overcome Republican obstructionism" in the Senate and get the people President Obama appointed into those offices. 

But what those on the Left seem to forget is that someday, there will be a Republican President and a slim Republican majority in the Senate.  And when that Republican President wants to appoint about a hundred pro-life Federal judges to then bench, it will require just that same 51-votes to move the process along.  But do you think those future Democrats will sit idly by and say "Well, those are the rules, I guess we just have to sit here and take it."  You know that they absolutely will not.  Instead, their will be continuous cries that "we need to return to the old ways of doing things in the Senate in order to protect the power of the minority!"  We'll probably also hear "This is not the way the American People want their government to operate!"  Well sorry, kids, we are playing by your rules now.

And the President set some interesting precedent earlier this year by setting aside enforcement of entire sections of the Affordable Care Act--without any approval from Congress.  Remember the delay in the Employer Mandate to provide health insurance to all workers?  There was no Congressional vote before the President just waved his hand--waiving the requirement.  The same goes for this month's decision that insurance providers can continue to offer existing plans that do not conform with the requirements that were passed by Congress in 2009.  Again, no vote in Congress was made to amend that law--President Obama said nobody has to pay attention to that provision--and it suddenly went away.

So what will be the Democratic reaction when that future Republican President waves his hand and says "We will no longer enforce the individual mandate for health insurance coverage--and the IRS is hereby prohibited from collecting the fine--I mean tax for constitutionality purposes--on people who go without coverage"?  Will liberals say "I guess he's just doing what's best for the country at this juncture"?  Hell no they won't.  They will angrily take to the floors of Congress accusing that President of violating the Constitution and acting in a "totalitarian fashion" in circumventing the legislative process to "further his own extreme agenda". 

However, those Democrats will be hoist upon their own petards, as that President points to Mr. Obama's actions in 2013 as the precedent and basis for his actions.  Hopefully he reminds his critics on the Left that "We are just playing by the rules that you guys set."

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Cinderella Story.....

A couple of years ago in this very forum I called upon the WIAA to reduce the number of teams that make the High School Football Playoffs.  I argued that 224 is too many, and waters down the "achievement" of making the post-season.  I pointed out that a number of teams were making the playoffs with overall losing records--and .500 conference records at best.  And then once those teams got in, they were almost always blown out by undefeated, conference champions--leading one to wonder if that was really a "reward" for a "successful" season.  By it's physical nature, football is not set up to allow for a "Cinderella" team to put on a miracle run in the playoffs because the superior team can always pound away and wear down a weaker team.  It's not like basketball where you can play a grind-it-out style to limit possessions and just keep the game close until the end.

In the years since that My Two Cents, the pattern continued.  Bad teams getting rewarded with post-season berths only to get hammered.  And it looked like the same thing was going to happen this year--as the WIAA had to select six "wild card" teams with losing conference records just to fill out the field of 224.  But this time Cinderella decided to show up.  And as fate would have it, she is coming from our own backyard in Winneconne.

The Wolves entered the playoffs with a less-than-stellar 4-5 record--but they qualified based on their 4-4 Eastern Valley Conference record (which they got only by winning their last two regular season games).  They were a six seed in their regional and were expected to bow out in either the first round against either River Valley or Wautoma.  But the Wolves surprised everyone by winning both of those games rather easily.  And after an upset win over number one seed Nekoosa in Level Three, they were suddenly in the State Semifinals against defending Division Four Champions Somerset.  A thrilling two point victory last Friday means Cinderella takes the coach down to Madison to play for the Glass Slipper--I mean the Gold Ball.

And who is there waiting for Winneconne?  A Platteville Hillmen team that finished the regular season with a 5-4 record.  Together, the two teams will combine for the most losses ever in a State Championship game.  And that has made this game the talk of the tournament--as it appears Cinderella will be battling Cinderella for the title. (The second-biggest topic of discussion is how two teams from the same conference, Oshkosh North and Kimberly, are meeting in Madison and not in one of the regionals?)

So congratulation to Winneconne on this historic run and for showing that sometimes, Cinderella really can wear cleats.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Things People Will Believe

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy Assassination, a new poll finds 61% of Americans still believe that the President's death was part of a conspiracy.  Kennedy conspiracy believers aren't quite as nutty as those who think NASA faked the moon landings or those who believe that the 9/11 attacks were actually coordinated by the Bush Administration in an attempt to start a war against Afghanistan and Iraq--but they still need to work on getting a life.

I think a lot of this "Who Really Killed Kennedy" stuff would have gone away by now if it hadn't been for Oliver Stone and his movie JFK back in the 1990's.  There are people who honestly believe that Stone's film was a documentary--rather than a fictionalized version of a New Orleans District Attorney who believed that he had somehow stumbled upon solving the "Crime of the Century".

In case you had forgotten the plot lines, in 2 & 1/2 hours, Stone lays out his "case" that Kennedy was actually killed as part of a vast conspiracy involving the FBI, the CIA, the Mob, Fidel Castro and the Communists and the Industrial Military Complex--ostensibly to prevent him from invading Cuba, ending the war in Vietnam before it even started and increasing civil rights for Blacks. (I'm suprised--given Stone's political leanings--that he didn't find a way to include the Republican Party in the grand scheme as well.)

Think about that for a minute.  Think of the hundreds if not thousands of people supposedly involved in the "conspiracy to kill the President"--and not a single one of them goes to any form of law enforcement or the media to spill the beans?  None of them leaves a trail of phone calls, letters, telegrams or checks?  And who managed to coordinate all of these agencies--most of whom actually worked against each other, but apparently managed to find "common ground" in wanting the President dead.

Conspiracy theorist have it much easier than law enforcement and historians do.  Theorists can just throw out whatever thought they have and they don't have to back it up with credible, concrete evidence.  Investigators don't have that luxury--they need to present indisputable facts.  That's why Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCollough aren't writing books on "Who Killed the Kennedys?"  And it's why JFK was directed by Oliver Stone and not Ken Burns.

But if you still want to hang onto your theories and conspiracies, that's fine.  I know a guy who knows a guy who heard about a woman whose son has some props from the Moon Landing studio that might want to buy as well.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Age of Enlightenment

Historians refer to the Age of Enlightenment as the period in the late 17th Century and nearly all of the 18th century when the beginnings of modern science began to erode the long-held beliefs and traditions of religion and people began to apply logic and thought to what they saw going on around them.  It appears that America has moved into her own Age of Enlightenment as the realities of economics, technology and global politics begin to erode the promises and beliefs held by the Obama Administration.

You could consider the start of this new Age of Enlightenment began six months after the President's first inauguration day in 2009--when troops remained in Iraq and Afghanistan--despite his campaign promises to have "all the troops home" within that time period.  It turned out that when you are fighting on behalf of people who A--really don't want you around and B--don't really care if they live in a democracy or a hard-core theocracy--it's not so easy to just pull up stakes and come home.

That was soon followed by the discovery that closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba wasn't going to be nearly as easy as the President promised it would be on the campaign trail.  It turns out that those who were being released were heading right back to the front lines against US troops--or their native countries had absolutely no interest in having militants and terrorists returned to them.

Then came the realization that spending trillions of dollars on new government programs and expansion of existing entitlement programs wasn't putting anybody to work.  It turns out that if you give people enough incentive not to work--they find reasons to not work.  And you end up with the lowest levels of workforce participation since the the beginning of World War II.

In 2012, it became obvious that the Age of Enlightenment had not yet reached the general populace--as the President was re-elected on promises to actually accomplish some of his original promises.  But now, it looks like the process of reason is finally filtering down.  It turns out that you really can't keep your health care plan when the new health care law has always said from the outset that you couldn't.  It turns out that three-and-a-half years of preparation is not enough time for the Federal Government to set up a properly functioning website that takes the average private sector company about six months to develop.  And it turns out that when you require insurance companies to cover more sick people for more conditions and procedures--it makes insurance more expensive for everybody. 

From the Age of Enlightenment was born the United States of America and the great experiment of freedom and democracy that it once was.  Maybe this second Age of Enlightenment will restore some of that revolutionary spirit in her people again.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Least Legendary Legend of All Time

In the run up to the event--and in the moment it was happening--ESPN tried to promote Jimmie Johnson's 6th NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship as moving him into a position of joining the "Legends" of the sport.  Specifically, the promos featured NASCAR's only seven-time series champions: Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, Sr.  While winning six season championships is certainly one heck of an achievement--few, if any, race fans would put Johnson in the same category as Petty and Earnhardt.

For starters, Johnson's driving style is in a word: Boring.  Even the most hard-core JJ fan would be hard-pressed to tell you what was his most exciting victory.  Or what was his most thrilling pass for the lead.  Or even what was his most spectacular crash.  Richard Petty won the Daytona 500 one year crashing at the finish line.  In his final victory at Talledaga, Dale Earnhardt came back from 21st place--ON THE LAST LAP!!  Those two were known as "drivers"--pushing the limits of their vehicles--sometimes beyond their mechanical capabilities in a "Checkers or Wreckers" mentality.  Johnson is more of a tactician--and a "benefactee" of having the best engineers, engine builders and crew members on the circuit.  You're more likely to hear the announcers say "Jimmy did a great job of keeping the nose of that car clean all day" or "(Crew Chief) Chad Knaus's pit strategy pays off!" than you are to hear "Johnson has just been driving the wheels off that Lowe's Chevy!"

Johnson's stature is also hurt by the decline of NASCAR during his decade of dominance.  Ratings, attendance and sponsorships are down precipitously in the past six or seven years.  Meanwhile, Petty and Earnhardt elevated the sport, with the former getting NASCAR out of backwoods and occasional segments on Wide World of Sports and into live TV coverage and national advertising campaigns--while the latter took the sport even higher--with TV ratings that beat out hockey and baseball nearly every weekend.  What also works against Johnson is that the level of competition has dropped off as well.  Petty won his titles against legends like David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, the Allison Brothers and Ned Jarrett.  Earnhardt had to compete with the likes of Rusty Wallace, Bill Elliot, Mark Martin and Darrell Waltrip every week.  I would put Jeff Gordon--who was the "lucky dog" of Hendrick Motorsports magic before Johnson--and Tony Stewart as the only guys approaching the level of the excellence seen in previous generations of drivers.

Make no mistake, winning a sixth season title is an incredible accomplishment--but I'm sorry--there is nothing "legendary" about Jimmie Johnson.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Disposable Stadia

First it was disposable razors.  Then it was disposable diapers.  Then came disposable cameras.  And now we have reached the age of disposable sports stadiums and arenas. 

Earlier this week, the Atlanta Braves announced plans to move out of Turner Field to a soon-to-be built new stadium on the outskirts of the city in 2016.  Turner Field was built for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta meaning it will be all of 20-years old when the Braves vacate it.  And because a baseball stadium really isn't usable for anything but baseball, the city of Atlanta has decided it is just going to tear it down--just like it had done with the then-36-year old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium where the Braves had played before that.

The one good thing for the people of Atlanta is that little taxpayer money was put into Turner Field.  It was built for $209-million by the Atlanta Olympic Committee--which also paid for its conversion from a track facility into a baseball stadium.  But the new stadium in neighboring Cobb County will cost taxpayers there $300-million dollars.  In case you are wondering, the corporation that owns the Braves--Liberty Media--reported profits of $1.9 BILLION last year--and has a net value of $26.6 BILLION.  You would think that they might be able to afford to build whatever kind of stadium they want--wherever they want.  But as nearly every pro sports franchise has, they have demanded that taxpayers who likely will never attend a game in person cover that entire costs up front.

The Turner Field story should serve as a cautionary tale for Milwaukee officials as they hear the demands of the Milwaukee Bucks--who want a new publicly-funded arena to replace the Bradley Center--which is just 25-years old.  The Bradley Center replaced the old MECCA--which had been built 38-years previous--but is still used for UW-Milwaukee basketball games and conventions.  Despite its relative young age, the Bucks and the NBA believe the BC is "too small" and "lacks the amenities" that a modern basketball arena needs to have.  Capacity for a Bucks game is 18,717--while average attendance last year was 15,611--third worst in the NBA.  So it would appear there is still plenty of room to fit a few more people in there--should more people actually find going to a Bucks game slightly interesting.

Like Turner Field, the Bradley Center cost taxpayers very little--as Jane Bradley Pettit donated the $90-million to build it.  But the new Milwaukee arena would be funded with public money--since Bucks owner Herb Kohl has already spent $25-million to help build the arena that bears his name at the University of Wisconsin and is apparently tapped out.

So those living in and around Milwaukee should ignore all of the talk about what an "economic engine" another new arena in the downtown area will generate for the area and instead focus on how much they want to spend on what will likely be a "disposable" facility.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Plan Is Working Perfectly

First off, let me send out best wishes to Steve "The Homer" True on a fast and complete recovery from injuries he suffered when he was hit by a drunk driver at 10:00 in the morning on his birthday yesterday down in Milwaukee.  (You know what they say, you can't drink all day if you don't start in the morning)  Now on to our regular feature.

While they offer up half-hearted apologies in public, you know that member of the Obama Administration are pretty proud that their plan for the Affordable Care Act is working to perfection.  I can see the look of confusion on your face as you think "What do you mean Jonathan?  ObamaCare has been a disaster.  The website doesn't work, nobody can (or wants to) sign up and millions are seeing their premiums go up.  How can that be considered to be 'perfect'?"

Well, you are forgetting that the Affordable Care Act was never designed to work correctly.  If Democrats really wanted a system that saw private health insurance companies continue to provide the coverage for the vast majority of Americans, they would have actually taken the time to design a system that would ensure the economic viability of those providers and made patients themselves more aware of the costs they are incurring when seeking medical attention. 

But that is not their goal--and never has been.  The Affordable Care Act was the most "acceptable" form of a poison pill that President Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress could sneak past the American People in 2009.  Anyone who took Freshman Economics in high school knew that by forcing insurance companies to cover people with very expensive pre-existing conditions, that would lead to higher premiums for everyone else--and put great strain on the insurers to stay in the black.  And that same basic class would lead you to understand that increasing demand for medical service will only drive up the price for medical service across the system.  Add to that the cutting of Medicare re-imbursements and hospitals and doctors will face huge losses as well.

Meanwhile, the problems with the website have kept the millions of young, healthy Americans that need to buy over-priced policies from getting into the system--and you have already set in motion that "Death Spiral" that will cause the entire house of cards to collapse upon itself.  And who comes riding in to the rescue?  Not Republicans, who would likely need to convince Americans that they need to have more "skin in the game" and make better health care decisions (who wants personal accountability?)  No, it will be the same Democrats--playing the role of "Arsonist Firefighters"--who will insist that the only solution to the huge problem they created with the ACA is Nationalized-Single-Payer-Health-Care--which has long been the stated goal of Liberals like Senator Tammy Baldwin and Congresswoman Gwen Moore all along.

So while it may appear that the Obama Administration is totally inept in rolling out "health care reform", things are actually going just they way they hoped it would.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Obviously They Don't Want To Help Anyone

In reviewing the press release sent to us by the Salvation Army of the Fox Cities for their annual Christmas assistance registration and Coats For Kids distribution, I believe I have come across a nefarious plan to prevent as many poor people as possible from getting their help.

Those who sign up for help from the Salvation Army are actually required to show photo identification and proof of residency!  As we hear every time the state's Voter ID Law is brought up--or challenged in court--requiring a poor person (or a minority) to get a state-issued identification card is an arduous burden that is put in place for the sole purpose of preventing "those people" from taking part in the democratic process.  And the Government Accountability Board has also decided that requiring someone to bring proof of residency in the form of a utility bill or a lease is also too much to ask someone to remember to do in order to register to vote--so they can just show something that has been emailed to them with an address in it on their smartphone or tablet (because an email can never be falsified).

As if showing photo ID and proof of residency wasn't burdensome enough, those registering with the Salvation Army this week also have to bring proof of income!  Not even those registering with the new health insurance exchanges are being asked to prove their income before they are approved for taxpayer-funded vouchers to purchase their policies!  Why should someone have to go through the humiliating process of confirming their need for assistance?  Nobody would lie about being poor just to get free stuff!

And if showing photo ID and proof of residency and income wasn't onerous enough, Salvation Army charity recipients must also show Social Security cards for every member of the family!  This is clearly an effort to keep illegal aliens--I mean undocumented immigrants--from getting these benefits.  Don't they know these people are "Americans" too?  And that they should enjoy the same "rights" as citizens--even though there is absolutely no allowance for that in the Constitution?

So why would the good folks at the Salvation Army require people to jump through so many hoops to get a turkey or a ham, some gifts to put under the tree and warm winter coats for their kids?  It could be that they are part of a vast right-wing conspiracy to keep low-income people poor so that the rich can get richer.

Or it could be that they realize the value of the assistance that they are providing to these people--and they want to make sure that only those who are truly in need of that help are the ones getting yet.  The people in those uniforms know how much effort went into getting those cash donations, how many companies had to be contacted to receive those grants, how much time and money the dry cleaners put into cleaning all of those coats and that the people that gave those toys and jackets did so because they wanted to not because they were made to.  The Salvation Army can't just pass a law saying "you must pay more for your children's toys so some other family can get theirs for a reduced price"--and they can't just take more out of your paycheck to "redistribute" to others.

I guess you could call it a "Christmas Miracle" that more than 25-hundred families will somehow overcome all of these "unfair burdens" to get their holiday help this year.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Going Incognito

What do the Miami Dolphins and eighth graders that can't read in Wisconsin have in common?  You wouldn't think very much, but they both provide an interesting insight into the culture of failure that continues to spread in African-Americans.

For those of you not familiar with the Dolphins situation, offensive lineman Jonathan Martin--who is black, and who attended Stanford University--left the team two weeks ago alleging verbal mistreatment and bullying by his teammates.  The team suspended Pro-Bowl lineman Richie Incognito--who is white, and was kicked out of two, less academically honored institutions--for being the leader of the alleged bullying.  Since then, text messages have been released showing Incognito called Martin the "N-word" repeatedly and threatened to beat him up or kill him.  What has shocked many people outside the locker room is that African-American teammates have come to Incognito's defense--and have played Martin as the source of the trouble.

The single most-powerful perspective piece that I have read so far on the mistreatment of Martin and the defense of Incognito by his teammates comes from Jason Whitlock of ESPN--himself an African-American:

I'm black. And I totally understand the genesis of this particular brand of stupidity and self-hatred. Mass Incarceration, its bastard child, Hurricane Illegitimacy, and their marketing firm, commercial hip-hop music, have created a culture that perpetrates the idea that authentic blackness is criminal, savage, uneducated and irresponsible. The tenets of white supremacy and bigotry have been injected into popular youth culture. The blackest things a black man can do are loudly spew the N-word publicly and react violently to the slightest sign of disrespect or disagreement.

Whitlock's words ring in my ears as I read about Democratic state lawmakers blaming Governor Walker and Republicans for African-American eighth-graders having the worst reading scores in the nation.  They seem to forget that the kids who did so poorly on those tests last spring are the same kids that grew up with Head Start, attended 4-year old kindergarten, went to full-day 5-year old kindergarten, were sent home with books their parents could read to them, had an elementary school Reading Specialist, had a middle school Reading Specialist, were given remedial reading courses, were "taught to the test" while "not being left behind", got free breakfast at school, got free lunch at school, got meals at school even during the summer, and joined after-school "safe haven programs".  And yet, they are still the worst readers in the country--dooming them to failure in pretty much every other subject in school.

So, we have to ask ourselves, is it really a lack of government spending that is sending our African-American neighbors farther and farther down this path?  Or is Jason Whitlock sounding the Sirens' call as to what is really going on in his own community?

Monday, November 11, 2013

What Would You Have Done?

I've got a few questions for you today:

What would you have done if somebody asked you to stand in a line and walk slowly toward another line of men firing guns and cannons at you?

What would you have done if you were on a ship surrounded by dozens of enemy ships firing cannonballs down on your decks?

What would you have done if someone ordered you to charge up a hill into a hail of machine-gun fire and bombshells?

What would you have done if you had to sit in a trench with cold mud up to your knees and the stinking bodies of what were your friends lying next to you as mortar shells exploded above your head 24-hours a day?

What would you have done if your Sunday morning calm and relaxation was suddenly interrupted by explosions and gunfire, setting fire to your ship?

What would you have done when the door of your landing craft dropped and a hail of gunfire and mortars came raining down upon you farther from the beach than you expected?

What would you have done as the jump door opened and the gunfire and flak was so thick that it seemed to fill the sky?

What would you have done as airplanes bear down on your ship, intent upon crashing into the decks?

What would you have done as temperatures drop far below freezing and you are asked to hold a mountain pass against an enemy with larger numbers?

What would you have done if a helicopter dropped you off in a dense jungle with enemies surrounding you in every direction?

What would you have done if your plane was shot down and you were taken to a prison to be beaten and tortured?

What would you have done if every vehicle that your convoy passes could be rigged with a bomb and every person who approaches you--even on your own base--could pull out a gun or detonate an explosive device?

For millions of Americans, the answer to the above questions was "Answer the call of duty, and defend my country."  Let's make sure they know how much we appreciate that.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Zero (Intelligence) Tolerance Strikes Again

The gang that brought us a ban on Little Green Army Men at kindergarten show-and-tell and suspensions for 7-year olds who were using sticks as "guns" to "shoot each other" on the playground and who put an entire high school on lockdown and called in the SWAT team after someone spotted an unloaded, legally-encased squirrel gun in the back seat of a pickup truck in the parking lot are back again with another lesson on the stupidity of "Zero Tolerance" policies on weapons in schools.

This time, the idiocy is just a few miles down Highway 45 in New London, where administrators are not allowing high school boys to submit yearbook photos featuring themselves in hunting camo and holding their bows and arrows.  Superintendent Kathy Gwidt defends the ban saying "We're living in very challenging times, and if there is in any way going to be an opportunity to connect something 'negative'--whether through weaponry or another prop that is in question--those guidelines are going to be set."

So what is the "negative connection" to bow hunting to which Superintendent Gwidt is referring?  Did I miss an incident where someone brought a bow and arrows to school and shot a bunch of students?   Is there an "archery gang" going around threatening to put a "field point" in someone's a**?  Until recently, archery was a common offering in high school physical education curriculum.  I know it's hard to believe kids, but we used to give teens bows and arrows and allowed them to shoot school!

We all know that this over-reaction to a simple picture of a bow is part of the Liberal education agenda to teach kids that any type of firearm or weapon is incredibly dangerous that it can never be used or handled safely--so they grow up to be gun-fearing adults who will support efforts to take away firearms from law-abiding citizens.  We also know that if the bowhunting guys' pictures are banned, then school officials can't be accused of "profiling" when they don't allow the wannabe gang-banger from submitting a picture flashing his tats and his silver 9-millimeter--or the pasty Emo kid wants to be shown in his black trenchcoat with his dad's semi-automatic rifle.

What I find ironic, is that the same people making every effort to keep these kids from expressing their interest in a completely-legal sport are the same folks that tell us at every School Board and PTO meeting that we need to "celebrate the unique talents of every child" and that "kids should be encouraged to follow their passions" (even if it guarantees they will never hold a self-supporting job, Mr Poetry Major).  Well here are some guys who are passionate about bow hunting and are probably better at it than many of us--but they are being told that cannot be "celebrated" in their senior picture.

The good news for the kids is that after next summer, nobody will ever look at your senior pictures again (leading your parents to question why they spent so much for them) and the yearbook in which you will not be appearing is just going to sit--untouched--in a box in your parents basement for the next 40-years.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

When Hate is Apparently Acceptable

Is it possible for a convicted sex offender to be a victim of a hate crime?

I ask this following an incident in Door County over the weekend where two men allegedly set fire to a mobile home because it is owned by a man on the state's Sex Offender Registry.  In the criminal complaint, the men explicitly tell investigators that they targeted the man's residence for the arson because they didn't want him around their area.  However, the Door County District Attorney is not attaching the hate crime enhancer to the arson and reckless endangerment charges filed against the suspects.

Wisconsin defines a hate crime as taking place when "the victim is selected in whole or part based upon the victim's class, which includes: race, religion, color, disability, sexual orientation, national origin or ancestry."  In other words, when a victim is selected for what he or she "is".  Substitute the word "black", "gay", "transgender", "Jewish" or "Muslim" for "registered sex offender" in the above description of the incident and nearly everyone would agree that setting that fire constituted a hate crime.

One could argue that the state has made convicted sex offenders their own "class" of people.  What other segment of the population do we require to inform the Department of Corrections of their current address at all times--under threat of incarceration for failure to do so?  What other group of criminals do we dedicate websites to, listing their addresses for public consumption--and providing releases to the media anytime they relocate?  What other felon is required to be on GPS monitoring for the rest of their lives--even after completing their sentence and probationary period?  Just last week, we had a story on the great lengths the DOC and local police go to make sure that those on the Registry don't hand out candy on Halloween.

And don't think that the hate crime enhancer isn't serious.  In felony cases it can add two to six years to a defendant's sentence--and it sends a strong message to the community that violence toward certain segments of the population will not be tolerated.  I'm not saying that registered sex offenders are unfairly persecuted--or that they should be the objects of sympathy.  But I am saying that when they are specifically targeted for crimes because of what they "are", we shouldn't just shrug our shoulders and accept it as being okay.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Care About the Money First

While Democrats here in Wisconsin assail Governor Scott Walker for not taking 200-million dollars in additional Medicaid funding to expand eligibility for BadgerCare, a new audit finds that in Illinois--which gladly accepted the extra money as part of the Affordable Care Act--one half of those on Medicaid programs are not actually eligible for those benefits.  Of course, state officials are trying to downplay the results of the on-going audit--claiming the fraud rate is "only" about 25%--because the number-crunchers have looked at the cases "where ineligibility is most likely" so far.  One would think that would lead Illinoisians to question why there would be a list of "likely inelligibles" to start with--and why state workers themselves weren't the ones trying to determine if fraud is being committed.  The same audit also finds that two-thirds of Illinois Medicaid recipients--whether they were legit or not--were receiving the wrong benefits. 

Fraud was likely a factor in some cases, one lawmaker quoted in the TV story on the audit findings admitted that most ineligible recipients got into the program legally, but were never removed after their financial situations improved.  It's precisely the kind of result you would find in a system that measures "success" not by the number of people who move out of the entitlement programs--but rather through the sheer number of people who are getting "help"--whether they need it or not.

Fiscal Conservatives are portrayed as "cold and heartless" for demanding accountability from programs like Medicaid and Food Stamps.  Liberals trumpet their lines about how "it's about people, not money".  But who is really looking out for the needy when those who are in no need of government help are allowed to steal from those who actually need it?  Would there need to be a cut in Food Stamps benefits for the single mother of three if a family of four failing to disclose an extra job (or child support payments) wasn't in there taking some of that money as well?  Wouldn't we be showing those in the welfare programs just how important that money was by making the process to get it more difficult--ensuring that scammers and thieves can't skim from the top?  It's just easier I guess to print more money to make up for the losses--and if you get a few more potential Democratic voters you can scare with "Republican threats" to cut Medicaid programs, it's all the better!

Oh and did I mention that eligibility for the federal vouchers to help pay for health insurance in the new exchanges will be "on your honor" for at least the first year of the program.  That's right, NO ONE will be checking to see if the income figures people report when applying on are legit before the money is paid out.  Maybe President Obama wants to beat the rate of fraudulence set by his home state--all in the name of "putting people first".

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Run To Win

Boy, those empty-backfield-five-wide-receiver-pistol-formation-throw-it-on-every-down-offenses sure are fun to watch.  Until the starting quarterback you relied upon to make all of the proper reads and to throw with pinpoint accuracy to the "hot route" to beat the blitz gets hurt--and the second string guy has no idea what is going on.

That is what the Green Bay Packers faced last night--and may face for the next couple of weeks--depending on the severity of Aaron Rodgers' shoulder injury.  I thought for sure that Seneca Wallace's first pass as a Packer--a deflected interception by a defensive lineman--would also be his last pass as a Packer.  And for a couple of series it looked like Mike McCarthy was going to accept the oldest truism in the NFL: You Run To Win The Game.

As a Packers fan, you had to be thrilled to watch Eddie Lacy and James Starks running the football for consistant--and sometimes explosive--gains for most of the first half and the early part of the second half.  You had to be relieved that there was little chance of disaster occurring so long as they held on to the ball.  You had to be happy that the ground game was chewing up not only yardage but time on the clock--keeping what appeared to be an ill-prepared Packers defense off the field.  Running the football--and dominating the special teams--was giving your team a chance to win with a QB that couldn't hit the broadside of Lambeau Field with most of his passes.

It was almost Bizzaro Night on Twitter--as the Packers reporters and fans that I follow adopted the mantra that I chant incessantly during Badgers games "RUN THE BALL!!"--instead of their usual "THROW IT TO JORDY!!"  And there was much frustration and anger when Coach McCarthy went away from that very successful strategy every time he got into the Red Zone for the final third of the game--allowing the Bears to rally for the victory.

For years, Mike McCarthy promised balance in the Packers offense--and then would abandon that after the first two runs of a game garnered 4-yards.  It appeared that he was finally going to make good on that promise this season--with 100-yard rushers in four straight games.  Now if A-Rod is out for an extended period of time, we might finally see the total awakening to the fact that he stands his best chance by going Ground and Pound.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Temporary Permanence

Today's vocabulary lesson for Liberals is the word "temporary".  Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "temporary" as an adjective meaning lasting for only a limited period of time; not permanent.  Knowing the definition of temporary myself, I wonder why we have this sudden outrage over the termination of a temporary increase in Food Stamps benefits that went into effect this month.

For those who likely forgot--since it was buried deep inside the Second Stimulus Package way back in 2009--the Food Stamps increase was to be a way to help low income families for just a "short time" until the economic recovery kicked in and then the program would return to its former levels.  Of course, Republicans are being portrayed as bullies because they are holding the Obama Administration to its word that the benefits boost was temporary--and that now that the original time period has expired, benefits--as was written in the Stimulus Bill--are back to their original levels.

If Democrats wanted the increased Food Stamps benefits to be permanent, then they should have passed a bill that made them permanent.  Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid should have stood before their respective houses of Congress and told the American people that "We know that our policies will never lead to an economic recovery, or an improvement in the standing of low income families--so these increases in Food Stamps benefits must be permanent to deal with the long-range damage that we are hellbent on achieving!"

Of course, Food Stamps increases aren't the only example of "temporary permanence" that we are seeing from the Obama Administration.  Quantitative Easing--the purchase of financial assets previously held by private financial institutions by the Federal Reserve instead--was supposed to be just a "couple of months" practice meant to stabilize banks and trading houses following the collapse of Lehman Brothers.  Well, we are now into our fourth year of QE--and the Fed shows no signs of ending the trillion dollar practice.  To do so, would force the Obama Economy to stand on its own--which the underlying numbers show it is nowhere ready to do.  If he wasn't leaving his position soon, Ben Bernanke should be made to go before the House Finance Committee and tell the American people that "We know that our policies will never lead to an economic recovery, so we need to continue this backdoor method forever to make it look to the voters and other nations that we are doing better than we really are.  Or at least until we go completely broke--by which time I'll likely be dead so it won't be my problem."

So when politicians tell you something is going to be "temporary", don't buy into their outrage when whatever they proposed eventually comes to an end--like it is supposed to.  Unless of course, you like being a permanent fool.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Grow Up Already!

Once upon a time, turning 18 years old meant that you were an adult.  On that special day you were allowed to drink, smoke, vote, join the military, even have sex with someone else who was at least 18.  It made things pretty easy to remember--having that one age determine what you could and could not do legally.  Nowadays, the definition of "adult" varies so widely, it's almost impossible to remember what age governs what activity. 

I bring this up as Wisconsin considers moving 17-year olds out of the adult court system and back into the juvenile system.  Advocates of the change claim that 17-year olds are "still developing mentally, and can't always make sound judgements".  Yet many of these same people advocate for those under 18 to make plenty of "serious choices" without parental guidance.

Take for instance the sale of the "morning after pill" and other forms of contraceptives.  There is no age limit on that anymore--meaning that as far as the Federal Government is concerned, 12-year old girls who want to be sexually active are adults.  In states like New York and California, people under the age of 18 are not required to get parental permission before having an abortion.  And in nearly all states, someone as young as 11 or 12 could petition the court to have parental notification or permission laws waived in order to terminate a pregnancy.

In most states, the age to drive is 16--but many, like Wisconsin, place limits on new drivers until they are 18.  16 is also the age where someone over 18 having sex with them would face a misdemeanor instead of a felony. 18 is still the magic number for voting, buying cigarettes and joining the military without having to get parental permission.  It's also when people can start signing contracts, getting married and facing felony charges and prison time for serious criminal offenses.  But we still don't trust you to drink--that doesn't come until your 21.  And 21 isn't even good enough for some people to think that you are an adult.  Try renting a car before the age of 25.

And then along came the Obama Administration, which decided that you shouldn't be considered "adult" enough to buy your own health insurance until you are 26 years old.  In another ironic twist, those pushing for this measure were the same ones who took the age restrictions off the purchase of the contraceptives I mentioned before.

With so many different definitions of "being an adult"--no wonder there are so many twenty- and thirty-somethings still living with Mom and Dad.