Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2015: The Year That Never Happened

Now is a popular time to make bold predictions about what is going to happen in the new year, but that is going to be a pointless endeavor this time around--because 2015 is going to be the year that never happened.  Sure, there will be 365 days on the calendar--but everything that takes place from a political, economic and social aspect will be viewed through the prism of 2016.

For all intents and purposes, 2016 started the day after the November elections this year.  Have you heard any serious conversation about what is going to be accomplished in Washington in 2015?  The assumption is that anything majority Republicans send to President Obama will be vetoed out of hand and the stalemate will just continue as normal.  And the focus has now turned to the "tough map" that Republicans face in 2016--including the re-election challenge Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson faces in a Presidential year.  That means every committee meeting he chairs, every vote he takes on the floor of the Senate and every appearance on Fox News and Morning Joe will be evaluated in how it "affects his chances in 2016".  Meanwhile, every word uttered by Russ Feingold in his college speeches will be parsed to determine if he is running again in 2016.

Governor Scott Walker's new budget will be seen as a de facto 2016 Presidential campaign platform.  Every visit to Iowa or New York or Texas will be seen as a "clear sign" that he is running in 2016.  Speeches at Governors' conferences or GOP conventions will be seen as "practice runs" for 2016.  Republicans in the Legislature will likely front-end their agendas so as not to have to handle any controversial issue in 2016--and not to put their huge majorities in Madison at risk.

And expect to hear plenty about Hillary Clinton for the next 365 days--always preceded with the label "The Clear Democratic Front-runner for 2016".  Everything that happens around the world will be presented in ways that ask "how does this affect Hillary's chances in 2016?"  ISIS steps up their attacks in Iraq and Syria? How would Hillary handle it?  Vladamir Putin continues his secret war in Ukraine?  Would Hillary stand up to him?  What does Hillary think about protests over police shootings of unarmed young black men?  (Of course, by the time we actually get to 2016, the media narrative will be "Are people burned out on Hillary Clinton?"--just like in 2008.)

So enjoy your 2015--or as I like to call it: the FIRST 365 days of 2016.



Tuesday, December 30, 2014

First World Problems

The first time my wife and I took a trip to Hawaii we brought along 8--count them--8 pieces of luggage.  Four full-sized suitcases, two carry-ons and two "personal items" that were stowed under the seat.  As you can imagine--we were quite the sight in airports across the country and the Pacific--trying to grab all of those bags off the conveyor, lugging them through the terminals to the rental car shuttle buses and then trying to fit all of that into our vehicles.  As we prepare to embark on the same trip next year, we are hoping to cut back--especially now that Hawaiian Airlines charges bag fees--which were non-existent in 2005.

This time we won't be taking cold weather gear for Sunrise on Haleakala or biking gear for the ride down the mountain or hiking gear or night-time hiking gear--which should clear up plenty of space in the bags.  Except we have new "must bring along" items--mainly all of our electronics.

A preliminary list shows 3 cameras, 2 cell phones, 2 Ipods, a GPS unit and an e-reader will all have to make the trip.  And with them will have to come all of their chargers.  The only problem is, how many hotel rooms and bed and breakfast bedrooms have NINE electrical outlets to charge all of that stuff at the same time?  Although I have noticed some hotel chains are now placing outlets and USB charging ports near the bedside tables--but that still won't be nearly enough.  So now I am forced to buy a seven-port USB charger (the absolute largest unit I can find online) to bring along on the trip.

But then you start thinking, "well we are only going to be in the room at night--and we will be using the cameras and the GPS and the e-reader all day somewhere else.  How will we keep them charged then?"  and that leads to the purchase of multi-port car chargers--and research into how many charging ports (they don't call them cigarette lighters anymore) does a new Jeep Wrangler have?  And how many amps does that put out?

But what about the times we are out on a boat or in a helicopter and a camera battery is getting low?  Well then you need to have a portable charger (that you plugged into the seven port charger earlier) to power up in case of emergency.  And what if the Ipods and the Kindle go dead on the four hour plane rides?  Well then you get the Extra Comfort Economy class seats with the built in charging plugs--alternating the items as they get drained.

It's hard to believe all you have to bring along nowadays--just to get away from it all.

Monday, December 29, 2014

What Are You Doing Here?

I'm often asked around this time of year: "What are you doing here?"  Many in the radio and TV biz take this week off--with little going on, no ratings period and not much to talk about.  Or they have to "recover from the holidays".  If you need time off to recover from one day of giving gifts to other people then you are taking it way too seriously.

Personally, I don't see why you would want to be off at this time of year.  You're not going to be able to play golf, or spend a day at the park with the kids or go for a scenic drive through the country.  The mall is going to be packed with high school kids off from class all week and with gift cards burning holes in their wallets.  About the only thing this week has going for it is daytime college football bowl games--but even those are crappy matchups (like today's titanic clash between 6-6 Texas and 6-6 Arkansas in the Texas Bowl).

Besides, it's amazing how much work you can actually accomplish when no one is around to bother you.  No one asking what you thought about Aaron Rodgers "comeback" last night, or the usual dirty play of the Lions.  No one scheduling a meeting at your busiest time of the day to recap the bullet points of last week's meeting so "we are all on the same page".  My usual 500 emails from every public relations firm, third party political group, community organization and seller of "male enhancement" drops precipitously this week--meaning even less time emptying out my inbox.  If anything, coming to work at this time of year is the real "vacation".

Believe me, I would much rather sit in the office today and even for most of New Year's day getting stuff done--so that I don't have to sit in the office trying to get things done on those glorious June days when the sun is warm, the breeze is light, the golf courses are in perfect condition and I can sit on the back patio and grill out while wearing my shorts and flip-flops.  Now that is time off well spent.

Friday, December 26, 2014

In Case You Missed It

It's always difficult to keep up with the important news of the day at this time of year.  Parties and get-togethers take us out of our normal routines.  And broadcasts are filled with stories of generosity or need for generosity or just recaps of what else happened throughout the year.  But there are a couple can't miss things that happened in the past few days that need to be in the limelight.

The first is the demise of the "Single Payer" health care system in Vermont.  This was the "Government Option" that so many Democrats--especially former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold--insisted was "needed" instead of the Affordable Care Act and the exchanges featuring private insurance company policies.  Advocates of "Single Payer" claim it's the only option that will ever work--as the Government will control costs and resources will be "re-distributed" to those who need them the most.

Vermont was one of the few states to buy into those arguments.  They were all set to launch their "Medicare For All" system next week--becoming the vanguard for what would surely be a national movement to centralized health care.  And then Governor Peter Shumlin had to kill the plan admitting (to the shock of NO Fiscal Conservatives) there was no way the state could afford to pay for it.  The Vermont "Single Payer" plan was going to be funded by an 11.5% payroll tax on private businesses--and a 9.5% premium tax on all private sector workers.  The Governor finally had to admit that putting those new taxes in place would have had a negative effect on the economy and likely put Vermont in a hole that could not be risked at this time. 

Meanwhile, over in France, that country will allow its so-called "Super Tax" on the wealthy to expire next week after two years in place.  The 75% income tax rate was going to be panacea for French economic woes--as it would "redistribute wealth" and ease the country's debilitating debt caused by decades of government health care and pension programs.

The only problem was the money raised by the "Super Tax" didn't come anywhere near the levels needed to actually make a difference--and it further hampered the French economy.  Not surprisingly (at least to Fiscal Conservatives), many of the high-earners simply moved to lower-tax countries.  Others chose deferred compensation plans that would underpay them for the first two years of the tax--and then feature balloon payments on the back end when the tax would likely wither and die.  And those on the outside became reluctant to invest in French companies--or come in as executives--for fear that the taxes could go even higher.

So two of the cornerstones of Liberal fiscal policy--Government-run health care and "Tax the Rich"--come crashing down in the same week around the holidays.  Think of it as a bit of cold reality during a time of fairy tales and magic.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

So This is Christmas.....

Undoubtedly, the best of the "modern classic" Christmas songs include lyrics that promote peace on earth, goodwill toward all, charity for the poor and understanding between races.  In addition, it asks listeners what they did to forward those causes in the previous year--and challenges them to take the spirit of the season into the new year and to be the change that they want to see.

And ironically enough, it was written by an avowed atheist.

I'm talking, of course about John Lennon's Happy Xmas (War Is Over).  The song was released in 1971--at the height of the Vietnam War, the Cold War and Britain's conversion to the nanny state.  Yet the lyrics have the same relevance today.  To make it easier to consider that message, I'll spare you the original version and the warbling of Yoko Ono--and instead present you with a beautiful version by Sarah McLachlan.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

THE ANNUAL FESTIVUS AIRING OF GRIEVANCES!!!!







First, Microsoft--for ending support for Windows XP.  This means the painfully-slow, outdated computers I am forced to use here at the Radio Ranch are running even slower and nearing death.  You don't see auto dealerships telling people they aren't going to repair their older cars anymore do you?

Next, Listeners who call to complain they can't order our Sweet Deal certificates every week because they don't have the internet--Folks, it's almost 2015.  Even my mother who hates technology has a cellphone and a tablet computer now.  Do you call Groupon to complain you can't get their deals either?  What am I saying, you have no idea what Groupon is.

Then you have, Listeners who call to complain they can't use their Sweet Deal certificates the same day they order them.  I will grant you, it's almost 2015 and that every other site allows you to print your own certificate for immediate use--but please refer to my first Grievance for the reason why you have to wait for our certificates in the mail.  It won't kill you to pay full price for the Senior Special one night while you wait.

People who wear Mossy Oak camouflage clothing like it's normal fashion.  You do realize the design is meant to fool animals with poor vision--not to impress humans who can see 20/20.

Which leads us too.....Duck Dynasty Fans--News Flash!!  That is not how the Robinsons actually run their business.  And that is not how they act in "real life".  They are paid to behave that way for the cameras--and they do it because they have products to sell--yet some of you hail them as this "great American family".

Next, The United States Postal Service--which would rather have its customers stand in line after the self-serve postage machine at the 20th Avenue location fails to dispense all of their Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer stamps just to tell them at the counter that you need to reach deep inside the machine because "they tend to get stuck up there", instead of fixing the machine so they don't get stuck deep inside!!!!  No wonder you are going broke at a record pace!!!!

In sports, Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin--who has made absolutely no off-season moves to improve or even "shake up" the team.  Did last August and September actually happen?  Did we all dream that the team blew a nine-game lead in the National League Central and didn't even make the playoffs as a Wild Card team?  And you plan to go into next year with pretty much the same group that doesn't take pitches, move runners over with less than two outs, throw strikes in key situations and that gives teams extra outs every night with shoddy defense?

And finally, High School and College Football Coaches that run the Spread/Read Option offense--You are ruining football by producing generations of quarterbacks that can't read more than one player on defense, can't audible out of plays, have no mechanics for a seven step drop after taking a snap under center or planting their feet as they throw and don't go through a progression of reads if their first option is covered.  Just look at the disaster the position of QB has become in the NFL, as coaches try to do what they can with the likes of Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Geno Smith.

Now Festivus comes to an end with the Feats of Strength.  Festivus is not over until you pin me!!

Monday, December 22, 2014

We Only See What We Want To See

As my wife would be the first to tell you, there is such a thing as "selective hearing".  You know, where you only hear what you want to hear as someone is talking to you.  Well there is apparently "selective vision" as well--where you only see what you want to see.

The perfect example of that came last week when the Legislative Audit Bureau released a report on the operations of the state Unemployment Insurance system.  Auditors found that the state paid out $168-MILLION to more than 681-thousand recipients who were not entitled to those benefits.  The audit also found that 1.7-MILLION calls to the agency's call center went unanswered due to a limited number of lines and staffers.

Not surprisingly, the two parties in Madison saw the results of the audit in complete opposite ways.  Republicans saw just the $168-MILLION lost via fraud.  Assembly Speaker Robin Vos called a press conference to use the audit results to "prove" that fraud is rampant in the welfare system--and to justify his and Governor Scott Walker's call to drug test unemployment and welfare recipients before they are eligible to receive benefits.  However, nowhere in the audit does it say that drug use made any of the recipients of the benefits ineligible--and that testing would reduce that amount in any way. 

Democrats on the other hand, only saw the backlog of 1.7-MILLION calls in the audit.  In the Democratic Weekly Radio Address, Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Schilling blamed Governor Walker for not hiring more (unionized) state workers to deal with Unemployment calls.  However, nowhere in the audit does it say that all of those that didn't have their calls answered were denied benefits.  It's simply the number of calls that got a busy signal--or were never connected to the automated system properly--when someone called in to file or extend their claim.

It doesn't bode well for the state when those we elect to address our problems choose not to see what they are.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Why Are You Celebrating?

Did you ever have one of those celebrations at work marking some sales record or profit margin or production mark?  And in attendance is invariably the laziest guy in the office who didn't lift a finger to help anyone achieve that performance--or there's the mid-level manager that did nothing but second-guess all of the business plans or try to sabotage efforts of other departments to make his look good.  So everyone else looks at that guy and wonders "What is he doing here?  He didn't contribute in any way to this success!"

Well that is the way I feel about liberals "celebrating" the recent fall in gas prices.  Rachel Maddow on MSNBC is trying to tell her handful of viewers that the gas prices are "proof that President Obama's policies are working".  Meanwhile last Sunday, Keynsian Economist Paul Krugman had to admit through clenched teeth that lower gas prices are good for the US economy--as that puts more money into people's pockets.

While they may force a smile for the camera and pretend to be happy for consumers, low gas prices go against pretty much everything those on the Left hope to achieve.

When President Obama talks about how oil production has gone up during his administration, he isn't talking about drilling in shallow coastal waters or deep water drilling in the gulf.  That production has increased only nominally.  What is fueling America's oil boom is rapid development of more shale drilling in the Dakotas (and the Canadian Plains).  Drilling that is done by "fracking"--the environmental groups' new "public enemy number one"--and an industry that would benefit greatly from the Keystone XL Pipeline that the President refuses to approve.

Lower gas prices also make the public transit options pushed by Liberals less-attractive to more riders.  Walking five blocks to ride the bus for 45-minutes and then walk five blocks to work on the other end in the bitter cold of winter is more amenable when gas is at $4.20 a gallon than it is at $2.60 a gallon when you can drive door-to-door in half the time.  The same goes for using Streetcars and high-speed trains.  With the costs being equal, Americans will almost always choose to drive themselves (usually with crappy music blasting on the radio).  And all those additional drivers again will build support for adding more lane miles in urban areas--as opposed to calls for adding more buses, trains and trolleys.

Lower gas prices will also bring back the full-size SUV.  In fact, General Motors is betting on that--planning to increase production of its larger vehicles in 2015--knowing that when it doesn't cost as much, Americans want as much room as possible in their vehicles.  That will mean more gas usage and increased emissions--a "Green Nightmare" that those on the Left thought they would avoid with the high gas prices we had just a few months ago.

So Liberals can join us for our "party at the pump"--but don't take it the wrong way when we ask you "what the hell are you doing here?"

Thursday, December 18, 2014

We're Getting Punked

Am I the only one with a sneaking suspicion that the controversy surrounding the new movie The Interview is just a ruse--and part of the most-elaborate marketing scheme ever concocted for a new release?

For those who don't watch Entertainment Tonight, E!, Extra, and TMZ Live all in order every night, The new Seth Rogan film is about two half-wit reporters who are granted an interview with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un--and then are recruited by the CIA to kill him.  North Korea has reportedly condemned the movie and demanded it not be released.  That was followed by the "leaking" of Sony Pictures inter-office emails and "anonymous" threats to unleash "9/11 style attacks" on movie theaters that show the film--all allegedly done by North Korean operatives or the government itself.

But if you look at the emails that were "leaked" you don't really find anything that shocking.  Producers think Angelina Jolie is a talentless hack and a spoiled brat?  No surprise there.  (And don't forget that she has a film that she directed--Unbroken--coming out on Christmas day!)  Jennifer Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in the Hunger Games movies?  That just "advances the narrative" about gender pay gaps.  And rich, liberal Hollywood types make racial jokes about President Obama?  We'll put that on page one right under "Dog Bites Man".

And as for the "9/11 style attacks", do we really believe that North Korea has sleeper cell terrorists here in the US ready to rise up and attack movie-goers?  The economic sanctions, the threats to blow their missiles out of the sky and our continued military presence along the border with South Korea don't warrant terrorist action--but a movie does?  All of this is bolstered by "sources" telling the networks (who have ties to Hollywood as well) that the hacking and the threats are coming from North Korea--but the State Department flatly denies having any such information.  Seems to me they would be the first to know about this stuff.

Yesterday, Sony Pictures announced it was NOT going to release The Interview at this time--due of course to the "controversy".  But by doing so, they create "public outcry" for its widespread release.  "We can't let the terrorists win!" will be the rallying cry from those on both the left and the right.  (Who would have ever thought that watching a movie with Seth Rogen playing his usual drunken, pot-head character would become and "act of defiance and patriotism".)  Even the President yesterday encouraged people to "go to the movies"--free advertising and a call to action for an industry that has been struggling outside of sci-fi flicks with huge nerdy fan bases.

So don't be surprised that sometime after The Interview is finally released and does boffo box office numbers that we find out that we have all be had by more "Hollywood Magic".


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Is Barry Bad For Business?

Later today the University of Wisconsin will introduce Paul Chryst as the new Head Football Coach.  Chryst will be the third head coach the program has had in the past four years--following the surprise departures of Bret Bielema to Arkansas and Gary Andersen to Oregon State.  Those resignations have some talking heads and reporters outside of Wisconsin wondering if Athletic Director Barry Alvarez is bad for the Badgers football program.  The belief is that Barry "lords over" the program like some shadowy "Godfather figure" continuing to pull the strings on his "puppets" along the sidelines--and that Bielema and Andersen wanted to be "their own men". 

Barry Alvarez is actually rather unique in major college sports today--a former football coach who has taken over the entire Athletics Department.  Most AD's today have come up through the administrative ranks--they are bean-counters well versed in Title IX, roundtable discussions and the school's "academic mission".  They are more like "Chief Operating Officers".  But coming from the sports side, Barry bring more of "General Manager" approach to the position.  And just like the Packers have been built in the image of what Ted Thompson wants to see--and the Brewers are victims of Doug Melvin's outdated "swing for the fences" mentality--Badger Football will always be predicated upon the Alvarez Model: run the ball, control the time of possession, win the turnover battle.

And consider the results: 3 Big Ten Championships, 2 Heisman Trophy Finalists and the second-most current NFL players of any Big Ten school.  And most importantly--never on probation and banned from post-season play like certain other Big Ten teams.  Would these outside "experts" rather see Wisconsin follow in the path of Michigan--which did everything it could to get away from the Bo Schembechler/Lloyd Carr history of success to plummet to the bottom of the conference trying to run the Spread/Option offense?  Is it better to sell your soul like Ohio State did by bringing in guys like Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer who will lie, cheat and steal to win tainted titles? 

We should also consider the success of UW Athletics beyond Camp Randall Stadium.  The Men's Basketball program is a perennial Sweet 16 team--with the Final Four appearance last year--and a top five ranking this year.  The Men's Hockey team has won a National Championship in the Alvarez Era (although they may be one of the worst teams in the country this year)--and Women's Hockey is among the elite in the NCAA.  The Volleyball team made the National Semi-finals last year in the first year of a coach hired by Alvarez and was in the Elite 8 this year.  Track and Field and Cross Country are among the best in the Big Ten, Women's Softball was re-instated as a varsity sport and has qualified for the NCAA tournament.

Perhaps most-importantly in today's culture, the Athletic Department has ended the fiscal year with a positive balance in the budget for every year of the Alvarez tenure.  

So will Badgers Football under Paul Chryst look a lot like Badgers Football under Barry Alvarez?  Probably.  Will Badgers Football under Paul Chryst be as successful as Badgers Football under Barry Alvarez?  That remains to be seen.  But given the track record, I'd be willing to bet it will.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

All Aboard the Deception Express!!

Today, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett will layout his arguments for construction of a streetcar system in the downtown area for members of the City Council.  Barrett--like nearly all liberals--loves trains (so long as they aren't carrying oil from shale fields) and believes they are the panacea for the city's economic woes--bringing young urban professionals and thousands of high-paying jobs with them (cue the Simpson's "Monorail" clip).

To bolster his argument, Barrett will point to the experience of Portland, Oregon--which has become the darling of streetcar supporter--as it is held up as the perfect example of what a system can be like: high ridership, efficiency and reliability.  Unfortunately, that doesn't actually appear to be the case.

The Oregonian newspaper just last week published the results of an audit (damn auditors, always ruining a great "narrative" with stupid facts and math) showing that the performances of Portland Streetcar are being greatly exaggerated.  The headline writers chose to focus on the 19% inflation of ridership numbers--meaning more than one million fewer people rode the streetcars than the utility claimed.  The same audit found that ridership numbers had been inflated for every year the past five years--but not to the level that was seen last year.

Buried farther in the report is that auditors also found that the 98% on-time claim by Portland Streetcar was also inflated.  The system's own data showed that trains actually arrived on time (which is anything up to five minutes later than the posted time) just 82% of the time.  What's more, the system doesn't even use the computerized system designed to track delays which was put in place back in 2001.

And then buried even farther in the report is a finding by the auditors that operating costs are being understated by nearly 100%.  Portland Streetcar claims to operate its trains on just $160 an hour--the exact number that was demanded of it by city officials.  But the numbers show that it actually costs $323 an hour to run each Streetcar--making it the most expensive form of public transit in the city--compared to $142 per hour for a bus and $188 an hour for non-electric trains.

And then even further in the report we find that the Portland Streetcars are breaking down and experiencing system failures at a much higher rate than expected.  Those cars--produced by United Streetcar right there in Oregon--are the same ones that Mayor Tom Barrett wants to use in Milwaukee.  Fortunately, the braking systems appear to be the only ones to meet expectations so visitors to downtown Milwaukee won't have to worry about dodging out of control Streetcars (cue up the Homer Simpson trying to stop the Monorail clip).

Perhaps the Milwaukee City Council might want to consider just chipping in an buying Mayor Barrett a model train set he can build in his basement and save the city a ton of money.


Monday, December 15, 2014

How Soon They Forget

Last night, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant passed Michael Jordan for third on the all-time NBA career scoring list.  The milestone led to a spirited debate between talking heads both on air and on-line about whether Kobe is now the "greatest player of all time?"

Much of the discussion focused on Kobe's five NBA titles and 32-thousand points--and Jordan's six NBA titles and 32-thousand points.  But missing from the discussion was another player with six NBA titles and SIX-THOUSAND MORE POINTS THAN KOBE AND MJ!!  That would be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Kareem never seems to be mentioned in "Greatest of All Time" discussions.  Maybe it's because he was a center and relied upon others to get him the ball in the low post.  Maybe it's because he played longer than everyone else--and people just assume that he got all of the scoring records due to longevity.  But most likely, Kareem doesn't get his historical due because most of his career came before ESPN, nightly highlight shows and YouTube.

If it isn't in hi-def video, it never happened for people today.  Anyone under 40 probably only remembers Kareem as the guy who was trailing the play while Magic Johnson and James Worthy were leading the Showtime Lakers past everybody.  Anyone under 30 probably never saw Kareem play in a game.  But what they don't seem to remember is that Kareem was one of the most-dominant players in the history of the game.

He was the most-sought-after high school player in the country before choosing to go across the country from New York to attend UCLA.  With the Bruins he lost one game in his entire three years of playing--one game--and he led the Bruins to three straight NCAA titles.  Kareem was so dominant that the NCAA changed the rules to ban dunking because nobody could stop him in the low post--still didn't slow down the Bruins.

In the NBA Kareem unleashed the ultimate, unstoppable offensive move--the Sky Hook--and used it to accumulate most of his 38,387 points.  I've seen pictures of Kareem tossing the Sky Hook over Wilt Chamberlain and David Thompson and dozens of other helpless big men--all jumping and reaching as high as they could--but the ball sailing just past their out-stretched fingers and finding the bottom of the net, again and again and again.

So if you tune over to sports talk radio or TV today and start hearing the Kobe vs Michael talk again, try to remember that "the Black Mamba" would have to average 20-points a game for almost the next FIVE YEARS to catch Kareem.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The New FriendZone

Here's a piece of advice for guys in college today: Don't ever have sex on campus.

One of the other effects of the Rolling Stone-University of Virginia debacle is a new focus on regulations placed upon colleges across the country by the Obama Administration and the Department of Education using Title IX.  Those regulations put into place processes and procedures that rob the accused of their due process and the right to defend themselves against accusations.

Claiming that rape is an "epidemic" on college campuses, the Administration and willing educators have rushed to adopt new policies that work outside of normal police and criminal justice system involvement in investigation of a crime and replace it with self-appointed committees and college employees to investigate claims of rape and administer "justice" themselves.

A student accused of rape by a classmate on campus is subject to questioning by school administrators, is discouraged from retaining an attorney, never gets to question (or in most cases even see the complaint filed by) the accuser and any unwillingness to testify is held against him by those deciding his fate.  None of those involved in the process have forensic investigative training.  None are versed in jurisprudence.  And all of them have been charged not just by their bosses on campus but also by THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES to "do something about rape on campus".  And findings of guilt are based on just a "preponderance of the evidence" (meaning 51% likelihood of being true) rather than being judged "beyond a reasonable doubt".

Compare that to someone accused of rape off-campus by someone who is not a fellow student.  Police--trained in the science of gathering forensic evidence--handle the investigation.  A prosecutor--knowledgeable in the likelihood of finding enough evidence to warrant a trial and conviction--would decide whether to file charges.  A judge would preside over that trial to ensure that the rights of all those involved are protected.  An attorney would defend the suspect and question inconsistencies in testimony along with challenging unacceptable evidence like heresay (e.g. "well I heard from someone that she told them"....) and a jury of the accused's peers would decide if they believe he is guilty beyond the doubt a reasonable person would have.

Supporters of the new college policies argue that "women are at such risk today" that due process needs to be put aside to "assure justice".  They add that the colleges are not conducting criminal investigations--and that expulsion is not nearly as serious as prison time for those found "guilty".  But I'm guessing that "expelled for rape" is no less injurious to a person's reputation as "jailed for rape".  The "rapist" label sticks both ways.

So keep your love life very separate from your school life, guys.  Think of it as an "added layer of protection".

Thursday, December 11, 2014

We Are Better Than That

Whether you want to call it "enhanced interrogation" or "torture", after reading about the techniques described in the Senate Intelligence Committee report I hope that we can all agree that we--as a country--are better than that.  "Rectal rehydration and feeding"--really?  And to make it sound even worse, it was done as much to "show control over the detainees" as it was to actually make sure they stayed alive during a hunger strike.

I understand the use of intimidation and fear in the interrogation process.  I understand the urgency to prevent another 9/11 or another African Embassy Bombing or another USS Cole.  I understand the desire to inflict a little revenge on the people who masterminded all of those terrorist attacks.  I can even understand the argument that you need to "get down to their level" to deal with these barbarians.

But the problem with that is by "getting down to their level", you become no better than the barbarians.  No, we aren't beheading our prisoners.  No, we don't stone women to death, or make them cover themselves from head to toe so that no skin is showing, or force them to marry at the age of 9 or ban them from getting an education or a drivers license.  No, we don't strap bombs to old people to wear into crowded farmers markets.  And we don't hijack planes and fly them into buildings.  But the use of some of the techniques listed in the Committee report make us look just as inhuman.

Personally, I don't care what the people of the Middle East or Europe think of us--or how this report is going to "hurt our global image".  We have saved pretty much everybody's butt from even worse abuses and tyranny at least once and probably twice in the just the past 100-years--so they still owe us big time.  But what I do care about is the standards by which I hold my own Government.  And the actions described this week are not the standards I expect.

So maybe it's a good thing that we expose this ugly side of our nation--and get to work on finding better ways to do things.  Ways more in line with standards we set for ourselves.  And if torture is the only option, might I suggest exposing our detainees to Taylor Swift, One Direction, Miley Cyrus and Iggy Azalea music and media coverage 24-hours a day.  That would likely make even the most hard-core Islamic militant crack.




Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Defending Your Right to Know

A My Two Cents salute goes out to Door County Advocate reporter Samantha Hernandez today for standing up for the public's right to know what it's elected officials are doing.  Hernandez was given the "thrilling" assignment of covering Monday night's Gibraltar School Board meeting and placed a small recording device on the board table.  This is a common practice among journalists to ensure accuracy in quotations used in stories--and to allow the reporter to review all aspects of a discussion in writing an article.

The recorder on the table was not an issue for the first 15-minutes of the meeting.  But then attorney Mary Gerbig--who was hired by the Gibraltar School Board to advise it on open records matters--suggested that the Board have the recorder removed during the public comments section of the meeting.  Gerbig defended the recommendation saying it was "for purposes of open discussion".

To her credit, Hernandez defended her use of the recorder--pointing out that this was a public hearing.  But Gerbig insisted--issuing a chilling opinion from someone who is supposed to be an "expert" on open records:

"It's a meeting of the Board of Education, and that it's the board's meeting, not a public meeting, these are public comments that are taken by the board (in this) session and that because it is a meeting of the board, there's not been any previous permission to tape a board meeting,

"The board can make a decision down the road if the board would like to tape sessions and that may be something that you'd like to have the board consider, but this is a reporter, and at this point I'm just going to ask that she please remove that from the table."

A non-school board elected official in attendance took the attorney to task for her statement--accusing her of mis-interpreting the state's Open Meetings Laws--and defending Hernandez's right to record the meeting.  And the reporter did not remove the recorder from the table.

While this situation still resulted in the public--through the media--retaining access to the proceedings of their elected officials, it shows the constant battle that reporters have to wage to keep you informed.  I've got several awards on the walls of the Newsroom for exposing open meetings violations right here in Oshkosh (although the violators were never punished).  And the state Court of Appeals found that a Fond du Lac County judge was wrong in banning members of the media from his courtroom for evidentiary hearings--a practice that I had personally objected to on two occasions in separate cases.  Our own School Board here in Oshkosh has adopted a practice of holding a private public hearing before its regularly scheduled meetings (making sure not to have a quorum of members present) so that people wishing to address members "aren't intimidated by the presence of the media (and members can say things off the records as well).

It shouldn't matter if you are the State Legislature drafting the next two year budget--or the Gibraltar School Board accepting the sudden resignation of a popular principal (the issue the attorney didn't want recorded in open session), those elected by the people--and the "experts" they hire to advise them--should always be conducting as much business as possible in full view of the public and the press.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Let It Go, Let It Go!!



Today's musical selection is dedicated to the Packers fans and the local media that treated yesterday's appearance by Brett Favre in Green Bay as a cross between the Papal visit that Mayor Jim Schmitt still believes is going to happen and fangirl-ing over a tour stop by One Direction.

It started yesterday morning on Twitter with BREAKING NEWS!!!!  BRETT FAVRE IS COMING TO GREEN BAY FOR MONDAY NIGHT'S GAME AGAINST ATLANTA!!!!

That was followed by links to air traffic control tracking websites where you could follow the progress of Favre's chartered jet in real time!!

The TV stations sent camera crews and reporters to Austin Straubel Airport to film the plane as it landed and to provide video the second Brett stepped off the plane!!

"Lambeau Cam" was turned 180-degrees so that we could get live, streaming coverage of the limo arriving at Brett Favre's Steakhouse!!

Speaking of Mayor Schmitt, he was at the Steakhouse--with his cheesehead on--to officially welcome Brett back to Green Bay!!

Sports talk radio was focused on what type of distraction Brett's return to Green Bay might have on the Packers tonight?!

Reporters wondered what kind of reception will Brett get if his picture is shown on the Jumbotron?  Will the fans cheer?  Will they boo?  Will Aaron Rodgers be jealous or be thrown off of his game?

It was getting so out of hand that the Packers had to issue a statement mid-afternoon saying Favre was not going to be in attendance for the game--and that no ceremony of any kind was planned that night!!

And then the cameras returned to Austin Straubel to film the plane taking off again--and the air traffic control tracker site was back up just to make sure that Brett didn't change his mind (he's been known to do that) and that the jet didn't turn back around toward Green Bay!!

And finally, all of the evening newscasts led off with the Brett was back stories--including one reporter using the terms exciting, excited and excitement seven time in the space of one minute!!

Like Elsa says ,people: Let it Go.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Screw the Facts, We Have a Narrative to Advance Here!!

We have a dangerous word creeping into the vernacular of journalism: "narrative".  In the case of reporters, it involves personally-held beliefs that the writer looks to include in every story he or she writes.  Narrative is used to bolster that reporter's beliefs--and to sway as many people to that line of thinking as possible.  And it was "narrative" that got Rolling Stone magazine into a journalistic disaster this fall.

Reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely went out to show that rape is an epidemic on college campuses--and that school officials are complicit in covering it up.  By her own admission, she went looking for stories of non-prosecuted rape at Ivy League schools like Harvard, Princeton and Columbia--but chose to make the University of Virginia the setting of her story after a campus activist put her in touch with a woman who claimed that seven members of a fraternity gang-raped her two years ago.

In a podcast with the website Slate.com, Erdely admitted she chose the story of the woman she called "Jackie" because the alleged assault involved members of a fraternity known to include mostly wealthy, white men.  Something she would have found at the Ivy League schools she had earlier searched for the "perfect story".  And while she agreed not to identify any of the alleged assailants by name (or in her fatal flaw: never contacted any of them to verify her source's account of what happened)--Erdely still put the name of the fraternity in the story--opening ALL members of that frat to suspicion and accusation.  A simple internet search will turn up plenty of "rapists" named individually by other people who "know exactly who did this".

Except, it now appears it didn't actually happen.  Or at least not even remotely close to how "Jackie" described it.  And now Rolling Stone is doing some serious back-tracking.  Coming under fire from both those who espouse journalistic ethics and those who advocate for victims of rape as having done irreparable damage to both causes.

But what distresses me the most is a comment from the assistant editor of the UVA student newspaper--Julia Horowitz--who tells Politico.com "from where I sit in Charlottesville, to let fact checking define the narrative would be a huge mistake".  There you have, from someone who wants to be a future journalist, admission that facts shouldn't get in the way writing what you believe to be true.  If falsely accusing a bunch of rich, white guys of something they didn't do "raises awareness" or "gets people involved" or "forces change"--then their ruined reputations and damaged trust of the public in the honesty of the media is just "collateral damage".





Friday, December 5, 2014

Home Court Advantage

In the days after a grand jury declined to indict a Ferguson, Missouri police officer in the shooting death of Michael Brown everybody all the way up to President Obama demanded that police officers wear body cameras at all times.  The argument was that if there was video evidence of what happened you wouldn't have juries confused by the multiple versions of events that were presented in the Brown case, where 22-witnesses couldn't agree on what happened right in front of them in broad daylight.  If the jurors could see with their own eyes whether or not a suspect tried to grab an officer's gun, or appeared to pull a gun of his own out of his pocket--it would be there in living color--no confusion and easy indictments.

How then do you explain another grand jury's decision not to indict a New York police officer for the choking death of Eric Garner this week?  That incident was caught on video--a video played and replayed thousands of times on all the news channels.  You can clearly see the officers arm around Garner's neck.  You can hear Garner yelling that he can't breathe.  You even see another officer kneel on Garner's head during the eventual arrest.  It's all right there for everyone to see--and yet the grand jury still chose not to indict.

Amanda Taub on the website vox.com has an article that claims police credibility--what an officers says he was doing carries more weight than anything we may actually "see" him doing--is the explanation.  Another factor is that even while watching a video of an incident, a juror is always going to see the situation through the prism of "good" and "bad".  The police officer on the screen is the "force for good"--and the suspect being choked, or beaten or shot is "the criminal". 

Remember, in both of these cases, the grand juries were presented with background on what led to the incidents in question.  In the case of Michael Brown, he was accosted by the police officer because he matched the description of someone who had stolen cigars from a convenience store earlier in the day.  In the Garner case, he was (again) selling cigarettes illegally on the street.  It was also mentioned that he had a history of resisting arrest. But what if grand juries were presented with just the circumstances of the fatal or injurious incidents themselves--seeing them in more of a vacuum than as the end result of a criminal act?  Even that might not help--as officers will still be wearing their uniforms that distinguish them as the "good guys".

And don't forget that police can be very persuasive in explaining every nuance of their actions.  You may recall an incident in Green Bay this year where an officer took a drunk guy who had been yelling at him during the arrest of another drunk guy to the ground and punched him several times while he appeared to not be resisting arrest.  That too was captured on video and initially led to calls for the firing of the officer.  But the Green Bay PD and the Brown County District Attorney put on a 40-minute multi-media presentation that featured additional camera angles, a briefing on police submission techniques and training and a blow-by-blow description of what the officer thought was happening and the reason that he responded the way he did.  Michael Brown and Eric Garner could never have put on such a presentation--because there is no training course for "defending yourself against an officer" and they are both dead.

So if anyone thinks the millions of dollars that the Obama Administration is proposing to spend this week on outfitting thousands of police officers with body cameras is going to "turn the tide"--you are sadly mistaken.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Some Benefit

A few days ago I got something in the mail that said it was "INFORMATION ON YOUR NEW EMPLOYEE BENEFITS!!"  It even featured the logo of my employer, Cumulus Broadcasting on the outside.  I was a bit worried because having just completed our annual enrollment, I knew that I had not signed up for any "new benefits"--and this mailer certainly didn't appear to have anything to do with my 401(k), my High Deductible-Health Savings Account insurance plan, dental insurance or Long Term Disability insurance.

It turned out that the mailer wanted me to know that I was now enrolled in a "great program" that will "allow me to purchase great brand name merchandise" for "affordable monthly payments".  The best part? My job at Cumulus Broadcasting "is my credit".  I may have missed it somewhere in there--but this will likely "help me rebuild my credit!" as well--having "damaged" it by paying off my credit cards, student loans, vehicle loans and even my mortgage.

Now as someone who is on the Dave Ramsey Plan--and who has not had consumer debt in seven years--and who has been completely debt-free for two years--I find it a bit insulting that my employer would "enroll" us in a rent-to-own type of scheme.  I'm sure some of my co-workers will be drawn in by the temptation of suddenly being able to "afford" a 60-inch Hi-Def TV for a "mere" $50 a month--for five years--never once considering the exorbitant interest rate that they are being charged.  It actually reminds me of the old "Company Store" concept that miners dealt with back in the early 1900's--where their paycheck was already spent on provisions sold to them by their employer by the time they got it--trapping them in their job.  Perhaps that is Cumulus' strategy here--keep the sword of debt hanging over us to keep us in line.

Now if my bosses really wanted to offer a "benefit", I could just give them a list of items I would like to buy and then they could give me the extra money every month to put into savings--until I have enough to buy those items!  Not only would that be interest-free--but I could also buy them when they are on sale--making it an even better value!  Now that would be a real "benefit".


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What Do You Mean "Dark" Side of the Force?

Forget Michael Brown and "Hands Up Don't Shoot"--we have a new racial controversy in America: Black Stormtroopers in the new Star Wars movie.  Director JJ Abrams released a "teaser" trailer of Star Wars Episode VII--The Force Awakens on the internet last week which should have given us long-time fans reason to celebrate.  But instead, the release was overshadowed by the social media firestorm created by a split-second shot of a black man in Stormtrooper armor.



The tidal wave of negative accusations that Abrams was "playing to racial stereotypes" by casting a black man as the bad guy sapped all of the excitement out of finally getting to see some footage from the eagerly-anticipated new flick.  Nevermind that the image is shown completely out of context and we have no idea how or why this actor is in that costume.  Let's not forget that in the original Star Wars Episode IV--A New Hope, both Luke Skywalker and Han Solo donned similar Stormtrooper costumes to access the Death Star cellblock to rescue Princess Leia.  That certainly didn't make them "villains" did it?  My favorite argument was "everyone knows Stormtroopers are clones of a white guy!!"

The blowback became so extreme that the actor himself--John Boyega (who is British by the way--so I guess his politcally-correct racial identification would be African-English?) also had to take to social media to tell everyone to chill out.

This is not the first time that the Star Wars film series has come under fire from those on the Left.  The original three films were criticized for their lack of Black actors.  The three prequel films were questioned for the "semi-Ebonics-type" language used by the hated character Jar Jar Binks.  So JJ Abrams had to know that he was going to face similar over-the-top reactions to his casting in the next three films.

But that is where we are now in America, where the slightest possibility that a Black person might be cast as a "bad guy" in a fictional movie sets off a "racial controversy".  So good luck fixing anything involving real humans.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Not What He Had In Mind

In the late 1800's and early 1900's, Andrew Carnegie gave away tens of millions of dollars of his own money to establish thousands of public libraries across the country.  Until then, book were a rarity in people's homes--as they were expensive and were not published in the numbers that they are today.  Personal book collections were for the rich only.  But Carnegie wanted to provide the information--and the power--contained in books to the general masses, and he realized public libraries were the way to do it.  He insisted that facilities he funded featured "open stacks"--meaning people could browse and select their reading materials instead of asking a librarian to go through "closed stacks" kept behind the circulation desk to get a book.  It was a revolutionary change that turned the US into a country of voracious readers and writers.

Carnegie's library model worked well for a hundred years--until the Digital Age completely changed the way people consume information.  Books and magazines can be accessed through e-readers, tablets and the internet--without having to visit the library or bookstore.  The research volumes taking up rows of racks can now be searched instantly on-line and nearly all of the information that Carnegie opened up to the masses with his public library is available at your fingertips through your phone.  It's another revolution that has "rekindled" (pun somewhat intended) America's love for reading.

But that leaves the Public Library in limbo.  It's core function--to serve as a resource of information for all--has basically been usurped by the internet--which is more convenient, faster and more comprehensive than any brick and mortar library could ever hope to be.  So that has many libraries moving away from what their original intent was and into fields that are somewhat questionable use of public dollars.  Take the new East Branch of the Milwaukee Public Library--which features a fireplace in its "reading and reflection room" along with 99 apartment units.  That's right, in Milwaukee you can now live at the Library (a dream come true for all of the homeless people who currently reside at our libraries during business hours).  The proposed Appleton Public Library on the bluffs overlooking the Fox River will feature "ample public meeting space" and an expanded children's activity area.

Is that really what a Public Library should be about?  Fireplaces?  Meeting rooms?  Kids play areas?  I guess those are easier to sell to big money donors than the "Mr and Mrs John Smith E-Book Download Section of the Library Website".  It's time to have a discussion about what we want our libraries to be in the Digital Age--a discussion they could have had in Appleton had the project gone up for referendum as some aldermen wanted.  Otherwise, we will likely end up with monuments to old and expensive ways to do things--sort of like the Post Office.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Reason Why I Hate Replay #6,437,233

We Americans hate when people benefit by breaking the rules.  That distaste even applies when someone breaks the rules to catch someone else breaking the rules.  Such activity can get important pieces of evidence thrown out in a court of law.  And that is why the end of yesterday's Cincinnati Bengals-Tampa Bay Buccaneers game should leave a bad taste in everyone's mouth.

In case you didn't see it, Tampa trailed by one in the waning seconds of the game when they completed a pass to get into field goal range.  As the Bucs were lining up to spike the ball and to stop the clock so they could run their kicking unit onto the field, Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis threw the red challenge flag--stopping play.  Lewis wanted the refs to go to replay, as he thought Tampa had 12-men on the field during the previous play.

The only problem is that the replay rule specifically states that a coach cannot throw the red challenge flag during the last two minutes of the game--as all reviews must come from the Replay Official in the booth during that time.  But by illegally throwing the flag--and requiring the referee to explain that Cincinnati was not allowed to challenge the previous play--Lewis caused a delay in the action that allowed the Replay Official to buzz the on-field officials to request a review.  And as it turned out, the Buccaneers did in fact have 12-players on the field for the key completion.  So the big play gets wiped out by the ill-gotten replay challenge and, of course, Tampa never gets back into field goal range--so Cincy wins because their head coach blatantly broke the rules.



Until last year, the "illegal throwing of the challenge flag" penalty was loss of review of the play.  But because former Lions Head Coach Jim Schwartz was an idiot and threw the flag even though officials were stopping the game to review the play, it was changed this off-season to either penalize a team a time out--or 15-yards for unsportsmanlike conduct if they did not have a timeout.  And who sits on the Competition Committee--which came up with that new penalty?  None other than Cincinnati Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis--who benefited directly from that change in a game that keeps his team's playoff hopes alive!!  What a coincidence!  In fact, the CBS broadcast crew lauded Lewis for his "quick thinking" and knowledge that breaking the challenge flag rule would not hurt his team--given the game-situation.

Now, because he had a timeout, Lewis--or any Bengals player on the field--could have gone the "legal" route to stop the game.  And if he had, today's My Two Cents would be about public libraries going way beyond what they were designed to be only to justify their continued existence.  But instead, he chose to intentionally break the rules for his own benefit--even through Tampa broke the rules first.  And as we all know, two wrongs don't make it right.


Friday, November 28, 2014

Sore Losers

On Saturday, the most-contested rivalry in college football will take place again at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison--as the Wisconsin Badgers play host to the Minnesota Golden Gophers.  The Big Ten West Division title will be on the line--along with a berth in the Big Ten Championship against Ohio State.  But more importantly--yes more importantly--Paul Bunyan's Axe will also be on the line. 

If you've never seen it, The Axe is six-feet long--has the Badgers' colors on one side of the blade and the Gophers' colors on the other.  It has been kept with the winning team (or the current holders in the case of a tie) since 1948 after the original trophy The Slab of Bacon disappeared (it was found years later in the Wisconsin storage room).  And part of the great tradition within the tradition is the winning team running to the sideline--removing The Axe from its case and running around the stadium to celebrate with their fans.  The players then use The Axe to "chop down" the goalposts.







Unfortunately, that part of the tradition won't happen tomorrow at Camp Randall.  Last year, after the Badgers won The Axe for the TENTH CONSECUTIVE YEAR, members of the Gophers decided they were not going to let the Badgers chop down the goalposts.  That led to a skirmish (but no punches thrown) before the Badgers continued on their victory lap.  Hoping to avoid a similar incident this year, Badgers Head Coach Gary Andersen announced a new "tradition" for the awarding of The Axe.

The Axe will be brought out to midfield for the opening coin flip--and then will disappear to an undisclosed location away from the field for the rest of the game.  After the contest is over, the winning team will have to head into their locker room, where The Axe will be presented to them--out of site of the fans who want to win it just as badly as the players do.  The team will then have the option to return to the field to celebrate--after the opponent has left.

Needless to say, I hate this "new tradition".  If the Golden Gophers were so "hurt" by seeing the Badgers chop down the goalposts for the TENTH CONSECUTIVE YEAR perhaps they should have put more effort into keeping Melvin Gordon out of the endzone during the game and less effort into gathering around the goalposts after the game.  If you can't handle losing, then you shouldn't be playing organized sports at this level.  Go coach youth soccer where nobody keeps score and everyone goes home with their own Axe at the end of the season.  Seeing your opponent celebrate a victory of you should instill within you a burning desire to be better so you don't have to experience that again for an ELEVENTH CONSECUTIVE YEAR.  I was at the Metrodome the last time the Gophers won The Axe--and the site of their English kicker Rhys Lloyd sprinting to the Badgers sideline to grab The Axe after his last second field goal is still burned into my mind and I can feel the rage building inside of me.

And the fact that it was Gary Andersen and Barry Alvarez that concocted this "we don't want to rub it in" scheme that chaps my hide even more.  I know that Barry took great pride in winning The Axe and really raised the level of intensity in the rivalry again.  The one thing that I liked the most about Bret Bielema is that he took every opportunity to run it up against Minnesota--once going for two while up by 25 late in the 4th Quarter.  That is the type of attitude you have to have when you are playing your most-hated rival for the coolest trophy in college sports.  Not some "we are almost ashamed to win this and boy we really feel sorry for those other guys who haven't won in ELEVEN CONSECUTIVE YEARS" crap that we are going to see (or not see) on Saturday.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

That For Which I am Thankful

As we prepare to give thanks as a nation, let me list the things for which I am grateful this year:

I am thankful that I have ways of expressing love and gratitude to my family and friends that do not involve having to leave said family on Thanksgiving night to stand in line at a retailer to purchase an item to give them at our next holiday--lest they think that I am the worst person in the world if I fail to give them that deeply-discounted item.

I am thankful that because of good budgeting, I don't have to stand in line at midnight on Friday morning in order to secure an amazing deal on some piece of electronics that I could only afford by getting up in the middle of the night and still having to put it on a credit card to pay back--with interest--until next Black Friday.

I am thankful that my wife has not yet killed in my sleep after reminding me for the fourth night in a row that I had not put away the clean laundry or done the dishes--even though she always reminds of that right as I am going to bed.

I am thankful that my employer continues to provide us with a High Deductible-Health Savings Account insurance policy that saves me thousands of dollars a year and helps the plan keep expenses down all while giving me greater control of my health care spending by actually paying attention to price--since I'm footing most of the bill--not to mention keeping us from having to go into the Federal Exchange to buy our coverage.

I am thankful--as always--for NFL RedZone Channel for being the greatest invention in the history of broadcast television sports.

I am thankful that my wife and I no longer have to do business with a local company that gave me a tremendous amount of grief and aggravation in trying to purchase a gift certificate and gave my wife plenty of grief in trying to schedule services with them and then again when she tried to use said gift certificate--even though the cash was already in their till and whom we would NEVER recommend you shop at for Small Business Saturday.

And I am extremely grateful that we have a two week trip to Hawaii coming up next year to give us an escape from what appears to be another long, cold and snowy winter that threatens to further sap my strength and resolve.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

NOBODY Won Last NIght

I have a question for all of those who were trumpeting yesterday's grand jury decision not to press charges against Ferguson, Missouri Police Officer Darren Wilson as a "Victory for justice": How do you know?  Did you hear all 80-hours of testimony in the case?  Did you see all of the pieces of physical and forensic evidence?  Were you briefed on what rises to the level of probable cause in deciding whether or not to indict a suspect (remember, this was just to decide if there was enough evidence to try Wilson--this was not to determine if he was guilty or not)?  Then what makes you so sure that the right decision was reached in this case?

Unless you answered "yes" to all of the questions above--and only the members of the grand jury can say that--then you are basing your definition of justice on the preconceived notions you brought to the case in the first place.  You likely believe that Officer Wilson was just riding along, asked politely to talk to Michael Brown about a shoplifting incident earlier that day at a convenience store and that Brown turned on him and was going to kill him in order not to be arrested for stealing cigars and that Officer Wilson was justified to shoot him as many times as necessary to keep that from happening. 

Well, if you believe that is the "truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth" then you are just as wrong as the people who took to the streets last night to destroy Ferguson--and who believe that Michael Brown was just walking along minding his own business when racist Officer Wilson stopped him--only because he is a young, black man--harassed him and then opened fire on him even after Brown begged for him to stop.

Many people took to social media platforms last night to deride the protesters and the rioters for the "legal expertise".  But those in the street knew just as much about the facts of the case as those sitting in their recliners hundreds or thousands of miles away from Ferguson.  And they have no more right to "celebrate" the grand jury's decision than the mobs have to destroy the property of people who had nothing to do with the incident.

Maybe a starting point for "the discussion we need to have" should be the widely-held belief that justice is only attained when the person of your color wins the decision.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Self-Gerrymanderization

One of the catch phrases used by Liberals to explain away their huge losses in the Mid-term Elections this months was "we were facing a tough map".  Another popular term was "Gerrymandering".  Both were used as excuses for Democrats losing races based on specific districts--but continuing to do OK in races decided on a statewide basis.



When you look at the historical basis for the term "Gerrymandering" you find that Democratic Governor of Massachusetts Elbridge Gerry used his power to create Congressional districts in 1812 that followed no boundaries other than areas where his party did well in elections.  That led to long, sinewy and even disconnected districts that observers of the day notices looked like salamanders.  Thus the term "Gerrymander" was developed from the Governor's last name and the animal.

Now take a look at Wisconsin's map--for both Congressional and Legislative districts.  Do you see anything remotely similar to a "Gerrymandered" district in there?  And keep in mind, that population numbers in each district must be pretty much the same.

If Democrats are going to start blaming "the map" for their election defeats, then they have no one but themselves to blame.  The party is becoming more and more urban--with greater numbers of its voters concentrated into smaller and smaller geographic areas--while Republicans have remained in the suburban and rural parts of the country producing those maps that show the small areas of dark blue--surrounded by vast swaths of red every election cycle.

Liberals have chosen to take over the segments of government services and education that are usually found in larger cities.  And because they want to take public transit or bike paths or their electric cars with the 60-mile range to work everyday, they have basically tied themselves to living within those cities.  And by piling themselves ever more on top of each other, Democrats make it much easier to contain their voting power in a small number of districts that Republicans are willing to forfeit for the sake of winning in a larger majority of districts across the rest of the state (and the nation).

In fact, if we were to make all districts "competitive" as many political watchdogs (and suburban and rural Democrats) are demanding, you would have to "Gerrymander".  Milwaukee and Madison would have to be divided into pie-shaped segments with districts winding around to pick up "Republican" suburbs and rural areas just to make all the population numbers balance out.  Of course, Democrats will never demand that happen--as it would put all of their less-than-stellar but "safe" candidates at risk (not to mention any Gwen Moore's by name).

So my advice to Democrats in the minority would be to move.  You never know, you might come to like the quiet, the lack of crime, the economic development and the freedom to actually move around a little bit in "Republican Country".

Friday, November 21, 2014

So Just Some People Shouldn't Have to Work

I'm getting a little tired of the "No one should have to work at (insert retailer's name here) on Thanksgiving" crowd.  Yes, it's pathetic that we have a nation of shoppers who can't wait another six hours to buy gifts for people who will have completely forgotten that they even got that gift, and who it was from, by the Super Bowl.  But the idea that "no one should have to be away from their families" is hypocritical.

We don't shut down hospitals on Thanksgiving (or Christmas for that matter) do we?  Don't those people "deserve to be with their families" just as much as the cashier at Walmart?  How about the Fire Department workers who respond to the turkey fryer fires? Or the policemen who break up the drunken fights between your uncles over President Obama's latest unconstitutional Executive Order? Or the ambulance drivers who pick up everyone that ate the underdone dark meat on the turkey and are now sick to their stomachs?  Where is the "outrage" that they have to work?

Sure you can say those are "essential services" that must be staffed 24/7/365.  But how about the camera guys who are shooting the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade?  Or the people in the production trucks for the three football games on Thursday?  Or the guy working the board in the radio station studio and playing the commercials during the game broadcast for those listening in their cars?  Do you get all high and mighty and condemn everyone that tunes in for those broadcasts because "they are taking someone away from their families"?  How willing would you be to sit in the living room for eight hours on Thursday and not have football to keep everyone from actually having to talk to each other?

And what about the people who work at gas stations and convenience stores?  You'd prefer that there be no way to fill up your car when you are running low on the way back from Grandma's house in the cold and the dark?  Fast food restaurants are open as well--for those who just need a quick bite to eat or who don't have anyone cooking up a major feast for them.  Movie theaters are open on Thanksgiving--and so are bars.  In fact, I've seen some of the busiest nights of the year in taverns on Turkey day--since so many people have off of work the next day.  All of those bartenders and waitresses should be at home too?

And what about the people that really need the money they are being paid for working on Thanksgiving?  For some, it may be time and a half or overtime?  Maybe that one day of work will cover the cost of just as big a meal with just as many family members on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  Or it might put a few extra gifts for their kids under the tree at Christmas.  They should be denied the opportunity to make that cash just because their working (of their own free will) "offends" your sensibilities?

I have shopped at Festival Foods on several Thanksgivings recently--always because I forgot to pick something up the week before--or maybe I thought I had enough of some ingredient but it turns out I didn't.  And while I did feel a little bit guilty, I also appreciated that I was able to purchase what I needed for that day.  And I've taken to the habit of thanking the cashier at the checkout for being on the job to serve me that morning.  It would be great if the Walmart and Target and Macy's shoppers would do the same Thursday night.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Middle Finger Speech

American political history is marked with addresses that have come to be known by famous names.  Abraham Lincoln had the Gettysburg Address.  Franklin Roosevelt had his "Fireside Chats".  Berlin, Germany saw both John F Kennedy's "Ich Bin Ein Berliner" speech and Ronald Reagan's "Tear Down This Wall" speech.  Heck, even Richard Nixon had the "Checkers Speech".  And now tonight, Barack Obama is going to deliver what will likely be remembered as the "Middle Finger Speech"--as the President delivers a big "Eff You" to Republicans, some of the moderate members of his own party, the two-thirds of Americans who disapprove of his job as President, those who came to this country through legal means and members of the African-American community.

I would hope that the President would explain tonight why just a week after Republicans re-gained control in the Senate, "solving" immigration through Executive Order became such a matter of urgency?  What changed from the week before the election--when Democrats were begging him NOT to take such actions because they knew it would snuff out what little chances they had to win anything across the country.  And what is going to escalate the "crisis" in the six weeks between now and when the GOP starts passing bills out of the Senate for the first time in six years?

I would hope that the President would also explain to Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu why he hates her so much.  Why would he torpedo the last hopes that she had of winning her runoff election next month by taking this step?  Of course, he was going to blow her out of the water with his veto pen had her last-ditch effort to get the Keystone XL Pipeline permitted hadn't been derailed by her fellow Democrats like Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.

I would hope that the President would explain to the 61% of those who disapprove of his job performance why he has decided to further alienate them--and disregard what they want for this country.  Has he decided that since no one likes him anymore he's just going to spite everyone on the the way out the door?  Does he want to see if Rachel Maddow and Paul Krugman will continue to tout him as the "Greatest President Ever" regardless of how hard he tries to prove them wrong?

I would hope that the President takes a moment to directly address those that went through the arduous process of legally emigrating to this country to explain why their efforts essentially amounted to nothing.  I expect that he will give them the "we appreciate your respect for our laws" line--before telling them that now they are in the same position as all of those that snuck in under the cover of night.  He'll probably try to salve that wound with the "it's the moral thing for us to do" line--he likes that one.

And finally, I would hope that the President will speak to the African-Americans who have become a permanently under-educated and under-employed population as to why he is pushing them another rung down on the economic and social ladder.  What would the situations of today's urban Blacks be if 11-million people currently working for low wages in the "jobs Americans don't want to do anymore" weren't there--and employers had to meet market demands by increasing the wages for those positions (without being ordered by the Government to do so)?  I'd like to think that Reverend Al Sharpton would follow this speech tonight with the question "Why is the President so committed to jobs for Hispanics and Latinos--but is only interested in giving African-Americans more welfare?"--but I know better than to expect anything that probative from those on the Left.

I'd encourage you to sit down tonight and get your middle finger from the President right to your face--but the TV networks believe you don't actually want to see it.  ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX have all declined to carry the address--pushing it instead to their news channels.  I like to think of it as their own sign that they no longer care about this administration.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Helping Nature

If anyone wants to see what happens when the Government and bureaucrats attempt to "help nature", just take a look at the deer management efforts undertaken by the Wisconsin DNR over the past 25-years.  Around 1989, the Department estimated that there were more than 1.1-million deer in Wisconsin--and that was "too many".  So ultra-aggressive hunting measures were put into place to increase the number of deer harvested every fall, thus "helping" control the population.

You may recall there was the "Earn a Buck" requirement--which forced hunters to shoot a doe or an antlerless deer before taking one with a trophy rack.  And there was "Hunters Choice"--where you could shoot a doe or a buck at any time.  And there were October "Zone T Hunts" held in areas where the DNR decided there were still too many deer.  And then there were special hunts in December after the regular gun-deer season.  There were even "CWD Hunts"--where unlimited numbers of deer could be shot in an effort to "control" the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease.

So what has been the result of all this "deer management"?  A wildly-imbalanced deer population, that sees the animals' numbers dwindling in the northern part of the state--where it used to be the highest--and still "too many deer" in the southern part of the state.  Ask anyone who hunts and they will tell you it is pretty much useless to head north of Highway 64 anymore, because there are just no deer up there.  After the state tried to "help Mother Nature" for all of those years by artificially increasing the deer kill, Mother Nature took her own "natural" steps to cull the herd--namely, severe winters with heavy snowfall and extreme cold--which limits the amount of food available to deer, causing a natural die off that had been part of the "circle of life" for tens of thousands of years.

And what makes the "Great Northern Deer Disaster" even worse, is that part of the state has wide swaths of National and State Forests that provide public access to hunters.  Access that is not nearly as available in the southern part of the state, where deer are most commonly found on private property--damaging farm crops, running on our highways and wandering around our cities.  That means fewer people can hunt where there actually are deer--and the greater probability of ending up with "tag soup" turns people off to hunting--so they stay home.  The DNR admitted this week that license sales are down sharply this fall.

And that has an economic effect as well.  Towns like Crivitz and Three Lakes and Tomahawk rely on the influx of the Orange Army every year to provide big bucks (of the cash variety) at shops, restaurants and bars for the week around Thanksgiving.  Places like Waupaca and Wausau and Beaver Dam don't need that cash infusion nearly as much as the folks Up North.  Besides, most guys would prefer the "deer camp experience" in the woods, than just driving a few miles into the country from their own homes every morning to hunt.

Will turning deer management over to "the people" as Wisconsin's Deer Czar recommended restore some balance?  That will probably take another 25-years to determine.  But in the meantime we'll just have to live with the results of the "experts"--and hope that a tradition can survive.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Holiday By Any Other Name....

One of the favorite tactics of Liberals is to change the name of things in an effort to make them "seem" different than they really are.  The best example is the insistence that illegal immigrants in this country be referred to a "undocumented"--so as not to appear that they are advocating on behalf of people who are breaking the law.  But a school district in Maryland is taking the "renaming game" to whole 'nother level by making the entire calendar "politically correct".

Muslims living in Montgomery County wanted to know why kids in the schools are given days off for Christian and Jewish Holidays--but their children had to attend classes on Islamic holidays.  Given that a governmental body has two Constitutional choices when it comes to religion: "all or none", the School Board opted for "none" and removed the religious names from the vacation dates.  "Christmas Break" becomes "Winter Break", "Good Friday and Easter Week" becomes "Spring Break" while "Rosh Hoshanah" and "Yom Kippur" becomes "Those Days In October That You Don't Have To Come To School".

Except, Montgomery County didn't really go "no religion" because the dates of all these "non-secular days off" still fall upon all of the Christian and Jewish holiday dates!  Does anyone really think that kids are off on December 25th for any other reason than Christmas?  And that the Friday before the first Sunday after the full moon following the Spring Equinox is not "Good Friday"?  However, in their (Liberal) minds, these are not religious holidays anymore because "we aren't calling them religious holidays anymore".  Another problem solved by Progressive thinking!

Meanwhile, the state of Washington has gone in the complete opposite direction, choosing the "all" option and passing a law that public employees must be given two days off for "the religious observances of their choice".  That means everyone--but atheists--can get whatever holidays they want off of work--in addition to the already recognized religious dates like Christmas.  And that apparently includes Festivus--which really bugs me.  As someone who celebrates Festivus myself, I'm glad to see its formal recognition growing--but what is getting lost is that it's an ANTI-HOLIDAY HOLIDAY!!  That means it should NOT be given the same status as the made-up days that everyone else is celebrating.  Besides, Kramer was fired for asking off from the bagel shop for Festivus--so that is a tradition that should be honored.

So I will see you all at work on December 23rd, 24th and 25th.  Unless of course you are taking "Winter Break".


Monday, November 17, 2014

A Thing of Beauty

You probably know by now that I love power football.  "Three yards and a cloud of dust" football.  "A seal here and a seal here and you run the ball up the middle" football.  I-formation with a fullback and two tight ends football.  Sixteen play, 80-yard drives that take eight-and-a-half minutes off the clock football.  The style of play that distills the game to its very essence: one man carrying the ball--and 11-guys trying to tackle him--just like you did when you were a kid in the backyard.  And that is why I am still giddy over the performance of Badgers' running back Melvin Gordon on Saturday.

First off, I have to thank the WIAA for scheduling the Wrightstown-Somerset playoff game that I called on our sister station for Friday night.  I would have been apoplectic if I had missed being at the Badgers game Saturday and Melvin had put on that same performance.  I missed the Ron Dayne all-time NCAA career rushing record game against Iowa back in 1999 because I was doing play-by-play for a high school game--and I'm still steamed about it.  And then, Montee Ball set the career rushing touchdown mark in Penn State, so I wasn't at that game either.

I also have to thank the Wisconsin Athletics Department Media folks for not kicking me out of the press box on Saturday, because I was definitely violating the "no cheering" rule.  I wanted Melvin to break Ron Dayne's single game school record while I was watching.  And once he had done that--and we found out he needed just another 70-yards or so to break the Football Bowl Subdivision record held by LaDanian Tomlinson--I wanted to see him break that as well.  I think I may have cheered an incomplete pass right before the record-breaking TD run--because I knew that Melvin needed all 26-yards the Badgers had to the Nebraska end zone to reach the mark.  And once he had that record, I wanted him to break the all-divisions mark of 468-yards rushing in a game.  But Gary Andersen decided one-record was enough and took MGIII out of the game will still another quarter to play.

Perhaps the biggest "thanks" should go to the Badgers' offensive line, who so thoroughly man-handled the Nebraska defense that on most of his runs, Melvin wasn't even touched by anyone until he was ten yards downfield.  It's probably why the offensive linemen celebrated after the game by doing "snow angels" on the field.

Oh yeah, the weather was perfect as well.  It was like a scene out of all those classic NFL Films--with the players' breaths visible and the snowflakes floating around--creating a frosted look on the field.  It was almost like the Football Gods decided they were going to give me everything that I like about football in one neat little package.

And that's what it was--a thing of beauty.  No 5-wides, empty backfield sets.  No hurry-up to run 85-plays a game.  No read-options keying on the defensive end.  Just our big guys versus your big guys--and a man running with the ball, while 11-others try to tackle him.  And on this day, the man with the ball made all those other guys miss better than anyone else in the history of the game.  Just the way football was meant to be played.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Tonight, the Wisconsin Men's Basketball team tips off its most-anticipated season ever.  The Badgers return four of five starters and eight of their top nine scorers from a team that was a freshman's 25-foot 3-pointer away from playing for the National Championship last March.  Wisconsin is ranked number 3 in the pre-season polls and is the pre-season pick to win the Big Ten.  Center Frank Kaminsky is a pre-season All American, the pre-season Conference Player of the Year and a Sports Illustrated cover boy.  Forward Sam Dekker is rumored to be an NBA draft prospect and could turn pro after this season.  It should be a glorious four and a half months ahead of us Badgers fans.  And yet, I have this overwhelming sense of dread.

We Badgers fans have been here before--usually with the football team.  The '99 Badgers were ranked high early--then suffered inexplicable losses to Cincinnati and Michigan in back to back weeks and dropped out of the National Championship discussion (they did go back to win their second-consecutive Rose Bowl and Ron Dayne did win the Heisman Trophy).  Bret Bielema had a team with Russell Wilson, Monte Ball and JJ Watt on it--and didn't win a Rose Bowl.  There have been a couple of years when the Badgers Men's Hockey team has been a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament and failed to get out of the regionals--so disappointment has been no stranger to Madison over the years.

What if Frank the Tank breaks down mid-season--or loses the touch he has developed over the last three years?  What if Sam Dekker's ankle injury suffered in pre-season practice never fully heals and he can't get off his shot?  What if Trevon Jackson goes back to being the Human Turnover Machine?  What if Nigel Hayes, Vitto Brown and Bronson Koenigs don't get any better?  What if no one steps up to make all of the clutch three-pointers that Ben Brust made the last few years?  What if officials get tired of Bo Ryan barking at them after every call that goes against the Badgers and he set a Big Ten record for technical fouls and ejections?

And that's just the regular season stuff to worry about.  With the one and done nature of the NCAA Tournament, anything can happen in March.  There is always a hot-shooting Cornell to knock you out.  Or a mid-major with six seniors that play lights-out defense.  Or a Kentucky that ends up in your regional with five NBA Lottery prospects that make every clutch shot necessary.  Or there is a crazy half-court shot that goes in to beat you--or a buzzer-beater that gets waved off due to replay--or a tipped ball that you thought was going to go your way and instead results in a rally-killing turnover.

The 2000 Badgers appearance in the Final Four will always be my favorite.  Not because it was the first of my lifetime--but because it was so unexpected.  A team that literally could not shoot the basketball smothered four teams in the Regionals and made it to the promised land (and likely would have played for the Championship that year--had they not had to play Michigan State for the fourth time that season.)  It was a wild and unexpected ride--where you felt like the team was playing with "house money" after the first round.  This year will be different.  This year, the big road wins won't be a surprise.  Fans won't storm the court if they win the Conference Championship.  And anything less than making it at least one game farther than last year will be considered a huge disappointment.

I'll be watching all of it--but it will be through the cracks between my fingers as I have my hands over my face all season long.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

At What Price Glory?

Comments made this week by Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose are leading to a discussion about what professional athletes owe the fans--and what we fans owe the players.  In addressing his playing in only half of the Bulls games so far this regular season Rose said:

“I feel I’ve been managing myself pretty good. I know a lot of people get mad when they see me sit out. But I think a lot of people don’t understand that when I sit out, it’s not because of this year. I’m thinking about long term. I’m thinking about after I’m done with basketball, having graduations to go to, having meetings to go to.
“I don’t want to be in my meetings all sore or be at my son’s graduation all sore just because of something I did in the past. Just learning and being smart.’’

Bulls fans and reporters who cover the team are now questioning Rose's dedication to the team and the sport.  The big question is whether or not Rose is willing to make the sacrifices "required" to be an elite player and to win championships.  They also point to Rose's salary--$17.63-MILLION this season--and his huge Addidas shoe endorsement deal--worth a reported $185-MILLION over 13-years--as all the "incentive" he should need to play as many games as possible despite a history of knee injuries.  Heck, for that much, Rose could probably hire someone to carry him into all meetings and graduation ceremonies for the rest of his life.

But is that a reasonable expectation from us the fans--that pro athletes use up every bit of strength, mobility and energy that their bodies have for our entertainment?  You go to one of those NFL alumni events and everyone walks with a limp and they can't raise their arms above their heads and their fingers are all gnarled and you realize the physical toll that they paid.  Of course, if you were to ask any of those guys if they would have sat out games to avoid ending up in that condition, 99.99% of them would tell you "no way"--because they wanted to be out there--hurt or not--and that is what made them great.

So I don't think we should begrudge Derrick Rose his desire to sit out games in the prime of his athletic career so he's not "sore at any graduations".  But he should "enjoy" that with far less cash in his bank account--and likely no NBA Championship rings on his fingers.