Friday, May 30, 2014

Enough With the Bacon

It's about time America start ending its culinary obsession with bacon.  I am apparently in the very small minority of people who do not like bacon--and that is becoming a bigger problem--as more and more food items are "flavored" with bacon every day.  It used to be that bacon was a rarity in the food world.  Everybody was turned off by its greasiness and its fat content.  It was considered a "cheap" piece of meat best served at diners.  It was just "country folk" that ate bacon.

But somehow, bacon has become the hottest thing in the kitchen.  All of the new fast-food burgers are topped with bacon, every steak is now served wrapped in bacon, every chicken entree has some bacon element in it as well.  You can get bacon bits served in your salad topped with bacon-flavored dressing.  And to finish it up, you can have bacon brownies served with a side of bacon ice cream.  There are bacon sodas and coffees (the worst of two worlds right there) and I'm sure some craft brewery is working on bacon beer.  I bet if you looked hard enough, you could probably even find a bacon martini at some trendy bar downtown.

Recently, my wife and I were dining at a local restaurant and I was all set to get their nightly special of Lobster Mac and Cheese.  That is, until I found out that there was bacon in it.  Now why would you ruin the delicious mix of fresh melted Wisconsin cheese, al dente pasta and succulent lobster with the taste of bacon?  I mean, bacon-flavored lobster?  Really?  Yesterday, we had one of the "celebrity chefs" from Men Who Cook for Christine Ann at the radio ranch with fresh-made jalapeno poppers.  And I was all set to indulge in a few--until he mentioned that he had added "bacon to make it even tastier".  Uh, I'll be putting this back now.

And that is perhaps the biggest problem with bacon, as soon as you add it to something, that is all you taste--bacon.  It would be fine if it was a subtle flavor--like coriander or cilantro--or if it complimented the main meat in a dish.  But once you put bacon in there, even the most carefully constructed layers of taste get overpowered by fried pork fat.

It used to be that when trying new foods all I had to ask was "are there any peanuts, mayonnaise or mint in it?"--to make sure I wouldn't be spitting it out.  Now I have to add "is there bacon in it?"

 Hopefully this will prove to just be a fad, and the American palette will move on to something much more delicious (and less over-powering) as a main additive to every dish.  Perhaps the report that 30% of all people in the world are now overweight (thanks in large part to bacon) might get the ball rolling.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Strike 16+

Did you happen to see the mugshot for the suspect arrested in connection with the shooting of a ten-year old girl on a Milwaukee playground last week?

Eighteen year old Sylvester Lewis is shown well, mugging for the camera just moments after being arrested for what could still turn out to be a murder (the little girl continues to cling to life in the hospital).  He has his big, fake Eddie Murphy smile on his face and his eyes closed--like being booked into the Milwaukee County Jail is a big joke to him.  I bet his friends and family get a big kick out seeing the picture on all of the TV newscasts and websites too.  "Did you see Sylvester's picture on the news?  Oh my god that was funny!"

Actually, being booked into the jail isn't a new experience for Lewis--so we shouldn't blame his clownish behavior on being nervous or scared--since he has been arrested more than 15-times dating back to his juvenile days.  (In the old days of law enforcement, Lewis would have been one of the "usual suspects" police "rounded up" whenever there was a crime committed in the city).  That means as many as 15-times Lewis has gone before a judge or a juvenile court commissioner.  Having been in these hearings I can tell you there was a prosecutor urging harsh punishment to 'send a message", a defense attorney asking for leniency since Lewis "is still young yet and can learn from his mistakes" and the judge ultimately sending him back out onto the streets--maybe with a stern lecture about "heading down the wrong path" and likely ordering him to finish school, see a counselor and get a job.

We hear all the time how we spend too much on prisons and that we send too many people away for too long for too minor of offenses.  But how would that ten year old girl be doing today if Sylvester Lewis had been made to take the criminal justice system a little more seriously before his 16th criminal offense?  I doubt she would be lying in a hospital bed--severely brain-damaged.  And I doubt that Lewis would be

Oh and for those of you who feel the gun used by Lewis is more to blame for this crime than he is--please keep in mind that the gun control laws (as they often do in these cases) worked perfectly.  Lewis didn't buy the 9-milimeter at a gun shop or from an on-line gun seller or at a gun show.  And after shooting the ten year old girl in the head he claims to have sold it to "someone else" for $250.  So tell me what new restriction on my ability to buy a gun is going to prevent that same thing from happening again?  Other than criminals like this sitting in prisons where they belong.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

You Can Always Catch the Exciting Parts on Replay

We reached a new low in sports broadcasting over the weekend with the presentation of the finish of the Indianapolis 500.  After several laps of back-and-forth action featuring Ryan Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves passing each other for the lead, it appeared the finish was going to set up as a possible side-by-side sprint to the checkered flag.  That is when ABC/ESPN decided to go "double box" and show us the reaction of Hunter-Reay's wife as one of the closest finishes in the race's history is given to viewers in a format filling less than a fifth of their screens.

As you might expect, racing fans (and casual sports fans as well) were not pleased.  Many took to Twitter to vent their frustration over someone not even involved in the race getting equal exposure during the most pivotal moment of the competition.  And they have every right to be upset--because in that one shot, ABC/ESPN basically told its viewers that what is going on on the track really isn't that important.  If the final few hundred feet of the crown jewel in American open wheel racing was that important, it would have been shown on the full screen with no graphics, no sponsored border and definitely not with any reaction shots of a racer's wife.  You see, to ABC/ESPN, Sunday's broadcast was not a sporting event--it was a "story"--and Ryan Hunter-Reay's wife (and all of her emotion) needed to share equal billing with the cars screaming across the finish line.

I can guarantee that the director and the producer in the ABC/ESPN truck were slapping each other on the back and telling everyone in the control center that they had just done a "great job".  They likely imagined happy race fans--and spouses of race fans--sitting on the couch at home saying "Wow, I am really happy for that racer's wife that her husband won! Look at how happy she is!  I can't wait to watch next week's race and see how that winner's wife reacts!"

The reason televised sports pulls in such huge ratings--and is coveted so much by all of the networks--is that you usually don't need to "produce" the drama.  The action on the field, ice and track is unscripted and unpredictable--without scriptwriters, special effects or season finale cliffhangers.  So please, ABC/ESPN, CBS, FOX and NBC, just let what's going on between the lines be the star from now on--and let whatever happens happen--on the full 36, 48 or 60-inches of TV screen that we purchased.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Really Honoring Those Killed

Memorial Day brought up the usual debate about the "best way" to honor those Americans who have died in the line of duty.  Some believe that the only ways are to attend ceremonies and to plant flags in cemeteries.  But I think the best way to honor those fallen soldiers is to maintain the ideals for which they fought and died.

We've done a pretty good job of honoring Revolutionary War and War of 1812 soldiers by maintaining our democracy and our free-market system.  Sure, we've had a few Presidents recently who have decided to govern by fiat--rather than work within the three branches of government laid out by the Founding Fathers, and the independent American spirit has been squelched some by increasing Socialist tendencies--but those yearning to breathe free and live life relatively free of government constraints continue to come to our shores.

Civil War soldiers have been honored the best since their deaths.  Despite occasional crazy talk of secession, we remain 50-states united and people are now longer considered property of others.

World War I soldiers were never "honored" at all.  Less than 25-years later, the same countries were fighting in the same areas for pretty much the same reasons--except a lot more soldiers and civilians were killed the second time around. 

Speaking of World War II, our efforts to properly honor the sacrifice of those killed in that war have been spotty at best.  Roosevelt and Churchill gave away the freedom of millions in Eastern Europe to Stalin.  However, the US did bolster the economies and security of Western Europe through the Marshall Plan and the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  But many of those countries have squandered that second chance by moving toward Socialism and burying their people in debts so deep they can barely keep their economies operating.  It looked like freedom was finally going to rule the Continent when the Iron Curtain fell and the Soviet Union collapsed--but now Neo-Communists like Vladimir Putin are given the same capitulation in their efforts to overtake neighboring countries that the leaders of Europe gave Hitler in the 1930's--all in the name of "maintaining peace in our time". 

The sacrifice of Korean War soldiers has not been "honored" well either.  North Korea remains Communist--threatening its neighbor to the south on a continuous basis.  And to make matters worse, we have allowed them to gain nuclear weapons--which sit in the hands of in-bred family rulers who act like three year olds demanding constant attention from the adults in the room.

Honoring Vietnam War dead has always been tricky.  We gave up the fight there and the country remains Communist to this day.  But like so many other nations, capitalism is finding its way there--and the people do enjoy a greater sense of freedom.  Perhaps those deaths will someday not be in vain.

And then you have those killed in the War on Terror.  We are walking away from the fight in Afghanistan--creating a vacuum that will likely be filled by the Taliban again--and their allies in Al Qaeda--meaning there was effectively no change in the situation that led to the rise of Osama Bin Laden.  Meanwhile, militant Islam continues to spread throughout the world, putting more people in danger than before 9/11.  It will likely be generations from now before we find out if that fight for human rights and democracy will have been "worth it".

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Glimpse Into the Future

Remember in 2009 when we were arguing about the Affordable Care Act and Government intervention (and control) of health care?  Conservatives tried to argue that the more Government got involved in the market the longer the waits for care would be, the worse the quality of care would be and the more expensive everything would get.  They were shouted down by liberals who countered that only the Government could ensure equal access to everyone, that access would make everyone healthier and that only Government had to power to "control costs" in the system.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Veterans Administration.

The VA is complete and total Government control of health care.  They own the clinics and the hospitals, they purchase and maintain the equipment, they buy the drugs, they hire the doctors and the nurses.  And from what we are "learning" (or at least President Obama "just learned" by watching news reports) it continues to be an unmitigated disaster.

Veterans are unable to access the care they need.  Veterans are dying because of that lack of access.  Veterans can't get the prescription drugs they need.  And the VA can't keep the necessary numbers of doctors and nurses on staff because they don't get paid enough.  All of the arguments for Government intervention in the private health care market exposed as a bunch of BS within the much smaller realm of treating our soldiers.

President Obama is "very angry" about this.  Well you know what, President Bush was "very angry" about problems at the VA during his terms too.  And so were President Clinton, and the first President Bush, and President Reagan and President Carter.  The VA is Example Number One of the systemic failure built into all bureaucratic Government-run entities.  And the root cause of the problem is a complete and total lack of accountability at every level of the bureaucracy.  By the way, if you think throwing billions of dollars more in tax money toward the problems are going to solve them--you haven't been paying very close attention the past few decades.

What is even more insulting, is that this sub-standard care is being foisted upon men and women who actually served their country.  They are in need of Government health care because they got shot, or stepped on a land mine (like VA Secretary Eric Shinseki in Vietnam) or a bomb went off in their convoy, or we sprayed them with Agent Orange in the jungle, or we sent them on nine tours of duty through some of the most hellacious fighting known to man--they aren't asking for free care because they had unprotected sex starting at 14, or they can't stop doing drugs and drinking or they are "taking some time off to find themselves".

So a few years from now, when the Affordable Care Act has achieved its real goal and the private health care industry is in shambles, and a Democratic candidate for President or Senate or Congress starts talking about how the "time has come for more Government control of health care"--I want you to put yourself in the shoes of those veterans who were on the "secret waiting lists" as you head to the polling place.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

VERY Misplaced Priorities

Did you hear about the Texas high school football field that had to be shut down because of structural integrity problems?  Actually, it would be wrong to call it a "Field"--it's really a full-blown stadium--complete with its own "skyboxes" and capacity for 18-thousand people.  It's just a couple of years old, but extreme cracking in the concrete on the "Concourse Level" of the stadium has forced inspectors to shut it down.  Apparently, 60-million dollars just doesn't get you quality construction anymore.

That's right, I just said that the high school football field cost 60-MILLION DOLLARS!!!  (That loud THUD you just heard was every School District Superintendent in the Fox Valley passing out from shock)

Anyone who has read the book Friday Night Lights knows that high school football is a religion in Texas.  (You could argue that it's bigger than religion--because how many 60-million dollar, 18-thousand seat churches are there in the state?)  But the good folks in Allen have decided to take that up more than a few notches.  Believe it or not, this shrine to excess was approved overwhelmingly by Allen voters in a special referendum.  Little money was raised from the private sector--taxpayers were expected to foot the bill.  And they did so more than willingly.  The population of Allen is just over 89-thousand people.  That means each resident is paying $675 each for a facility that is used just a handful of times a year--and can't be used at all now because of shoddy craftsmanship.

The stadium is result of an "arms race" if you will between Texas schools to have the biggest and the best of everything when it comes to football.  Eagle Field had to be this size--and this opulent--because the Plano schools just down the built a new field a few years back that was better that Allen's.  I'm sure more than a few voters went to the polls thinking "There ain't no way those Plano kids are gonna have a better place to play ball than my kids."

But just think what the Allen School District could have done with that 60-million dollars.  I'm sure that could get you a better cyber cafe than the one they put in at Oaklawn Elementary School here in Oshkosh.  You could outfit every kid with not only a tablet computer--but a smartphone, Google Glass and their own full-time IT support person.  You could have built a full-scale replica of Mount Everest behind the high school instead of some crummy little climbing wall.  And by not spending that money, you could have sent a message to all students that there is more important things in high school than winning every Friday night.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Non-Historical Preservation Society

Why is it so hard to tear down old buildings?  I don't mean the difficulty of physically knocking down a structure (although construction guys today will tell you they built some of those old buildings to be bomb-proof)--but rather the opposition some people have to taking down an old building and replacing it with something new.

We saw that again last night in Menasha as a handful of residents, members of the Landmarks Commission and one member of the City Council lobbied for "preservation" of the "historic" Hotel Menasha building on Main Street.  The Landmarks Commission had earlier denied the new owners of the hotel building permission to tear it down to make way for a new housing and commercial development along the Fox River.  However, when the question was posed as to what makes the Hotel Menasha building "historic", those opponents of demolition struggled to come up with an answer.  "It's been there for over 100-years" and "it's an example of a certain architectural style" were the only responses.

There is something of a joke in the Eastern US about the "historic" nature of certain places.  You've probably heard the "Washington slept here" line used by inns or taverns--but the Hotel Menasha doesn't even have that kind of "brush with greatness" in its history.  It wasn't the first hotel in town, or the first to have air conditioning.  It didn't see any infamous gangster murders and there was no secret speakeasy hidden under it during Prohibition.  It is just an old building with a dated design and infrastructure that makes modern use very difficult.

Menasha isn't alone in its fear of urban renewal.  Here in Oshkosh, neighborhood associations are asked to draw up their own plans with an eye toward "preserving the unique nature of their area".  Every effort is being put into trying to make old houses as liveable as possible--rather than allowing developers to bulldoze those rotting structures and build new--with designs, systems and features that modern buyers actually want.  If you are looking for an attached garage and a full basement--with cable wired into every room--there are hundreds of blocks in Oshkosh that you will have no interest in looking at.  Unless, of course, you're one of those handful of people who define "historic" as "just plain old."

Monday, May 19, 2014

Extending the Gap

My wife and I would like to offer an apology to all of the women in America for exacerbating the gender pay gap.  The pay gap has become a hot topic again (Democrats are using it as another "don't pay attention to the economy" issue in the upcoming election) and a quick check of our finances shows that we are contributing to the 23% difference in what husbands make compared to their wives.

On the face of it, there should be no gap in our household.  Both my wife and I have college degrees, an extensive work history with no firings for cause and we don't have kids to make us miss work for various reasons without advance notice.  And yet, my annual income exceeds hers by about 35%.  Those on the Left would tell you that my wife is the victim of some sort of built-in discrimination in the employment system and that various laws are needed to ensure that she make something much closer to what I do.

But when you go "inside the numbers", you find out that "the system" really has nothing to do with it.  Out of college my wife gave a career track a chance that likely would have paid her more than she is making now--but she found out that she got no satisfaction out of it--and she did not enjoy the hassle.  So she has settled into another field that may not pay as much--but suits her much better.  She would in no way want the job that I have for the higher salary.  She doesn't want to get up at 2:30 AM.  She doesn't want to work 55-hours a week.  She doesn't want to go to work when severe weather, chemical spills and national disasters happen.  She doesn't want to work on weekends, sit through five hour School Board meetings or listen to graphic murder testimony in court either. 

Surely there are other fields that she could explore to make more money, right?  Yes, but she doesn't want to fix sewer lines, fight fires, chase down criminals, build rocket engines, manage hedge funds or run a Fortune 500 company.  So how exactly is a redundant state Gender Pay Equality law or an "updated" Federal law going to change that situation.

The irony in this gender gap discussion is that Liberals can start to "rectify" the situation by cleaning up their own houses.  The Obama Administration pays men 12% more than women and the recent firing of New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abrahamson revealed that she was paid less than men in similar positions--men who likely green-lighted numerous articles taking Republicans to task for opposing duplicative gender pay laws proposed every few years by Democrats.

Recent efforts to get more girls interested in careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) may help to close the pay gap in the future--but as long as Beyonce is named the Most Influential Person in the World (as opposed to a woman that actually adds something of value to our society) that is unlikely to change.


Friday, May 16, 2014


Social media is great for a number of things.  Grandparents can check out the latest exploits and pictures of their grandchildren.  Reporters can use it for live coverage of breaking news from the field.  Companies and non-profits can advertise sales and events for free.  And we can find out what every celebrity is wearing, eating, watching and thinking that day.

But one thing that social media is not really good for is geo-political change.  #SaveUkraine didn't keep Vladimir Putin from taking over the Crimea region--and it isn't stopping him from undermining political stability in the entire eastern half of Ukraine either.  #StopClimateChange isn't keeping the Earth from continuing its 12,000 year warming trend.  And the hot new trend--#BringBackOurGirls--isn't going to do a darn thing to save the Christian girls kidnapped by Muslim extremists in Nigeria.

So-called "Hashtag Activism" is all the rage now--and it is the perfect embodiment of today's more liberal society--all talk and no action.  Your retweet of First Lady Michelle Obama's selfie with her #BringBackOurGirls hand-written note makes you "feel good"--you "did something", you "made a statement", you "showed your support".  And that retweet made as much of a difference as the retweets earlier that day of the really cute shoes that Ashley picked out for her prom outfit and the link to the video of the cat that gets stuck in a paper bag.

Do you really think there is a Social Media Director for Boko Haram running to his leader--Abubakar Shekau--today: "Sir, #BringBackOurGirls is trending on Twitter!  It's already received 40-million retweets!  That's almost as many as that infidel Ellen's selfie at the Oscars!"

Shekau: "Have you tried a counter trend--perhaps #WeAreAPeacelovingPeople or #Tolerance?"

SMD: "We tried that, sir--but most of our supporters live in Muslim theocracies that don't allow people to use Twitter on the internet.  We can never hope to get that many retweets!"

Shekau: "Then it is over.  Post on our Facebook page that we are releasing the girls and evacuate the camp.  CURSE YOU MICHELLE OBAMA AND YOUR SELIFIES!!  I HAVE WILL HAVE MY REVENGE ON INSTAGRAM SOMEDAY!!"

What do you say we demand more from our leaders than just 140-characters and a hashtag? 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Suddenly, Everyone is a "Fiscal Conservative"

What a difference two years can make.  During the campaign of 2012, Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan was attacked by Democrats for being a Fiscal Conservative and calling for the reining in of Federal spending.  Ryan--and everyone of his ilk--was portrayed as cold-hearted, greedy and sadistic for not wanting to increase spending in Washington--or more accurately borrowing in Washington--to "get the economy moving again" and to "improve economic fairness".  The loss of the Romney-Ryan tickets was hailed by the left as a "clear rejection by the American People of fiscal conservatism".

But here we are in 2014 and suddenly being a Fiscal Conservative is in vogue.  None other than Democrats Mark Harris and Mary Burke labeled themselves as being "Fiscal Conservatives" in separate interviews this week.  Harris made his comments on Upfront With Mike Gousha, Burke made hers during an appearance before the Milwaukee Press Club.  It's unfortunate that both of these public utterances weren't accompanied by laugh tracks--or at least an interruption by someone who knows the actual definition of "Fiscal Conservatism".

In the same interview that Harris touted his "conservative credentials" he also called for employers to be forced by the Government to give low-skill, low-demand workers a 22-percent pay increase.  He also called for states to spend more on post-secondary education so students would have to pay less and he also defended the trillion dollar price tag of the Affordable Care Act.  You may also recall his disastrous suggestion to the County Board a few years back to look at adopting a half-percent sales tax because A) Everyone else around us was doing it and B)There was just "nowhere else to cut" in the County budget.

Meanwhile, Mary Burke wants the Government to force employers to give low-skill, low-demand workers a 39% pay raise, the state to increase Medicaid spending by an estimated 280-million dollars, spend more on education at all levels and give up municipal government control of setting wages and benefits for its employees.  Can someone let me know when the "Fiscal Conservatism" talk starts please?

What surprises me even more than these ludicrous claims is that so many Keynsian economists blame Fiscal Conservatism for the slow economic recovery.  County Executive Harris and Ms Burke don't want to run afoul of geniuses like Paul Krugman and Timothy Geithner--who believe the only way to get things going again is to go farther into debt (both Government and personal) and spend like drunken sailors--do they?

To be fair, there are plenty of Republicans running around claiming they are Fiscal Conservatives and not backing that up either.  I'm talking to everyone who rushed to vote in favor of giving away a projected budget surplus--instead of waiting to make sure it is an actual budget surplus.

Here is a handy little guide for politicians looking to cloak themselves in the mantle of "Fiscal Conservatism" to curry public support:  If you support any efforts to increase government spending beyond the range of inflation, if you support tax increases on any income or business profits to pay for that increased spending, if you support increased debt to fund additional spending and if you believe in greater Government regulation of commerce or incursions into the private market system, and if you believe that people should not be accountable for their own financial decisions then you are NOT A FISCAL CONSERVATIVE!!!

Now excuse me as I go back to my debt-free, fully-funded retirement and health savings account, low-expense lifestyle.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush

The old adage holds that "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush".  It teaches us that what you have already is really more valuable than the objects that may require a lot more time, expense and risk to acquire.  Apparently, Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt has never heard of that old adage.  How else can you explain the great lengths to which he is going to derail every effort to locate a Walmart along Broadway in downtown Green Bay?

Actually, Mayor Schmitt likely has heard it--but he sees Walmart as an ugly pigeon in his hand--and he firmly believes that a muster of beautiful peacocks are going to come out of those bushes and complete his "grand vision" for the Broadway District.  Those "peacocks" would be the "mixed-use" developments with small apartments on the upper levels and boutique shops on the ground level--which for some reason have become the Holy Grail of downtown redevelopment in every city in Wisconsin.  I'm sure there are some riverside senior living apartments rolling around in the Mayor's head as well.

I imagine Mayor Schmitt sitting at his desk all day going through his rolodex and calling every developer he has ever had contact with begging them to come up with some sort of grand development plan for the Larsen Cannery site.  "I really need you to come up with something for me here, Larry.  There's just so long I can keep Wally World at bay.  Why don't you just come to a press conference with some pretty drawings and we'll pass that off as a great new proposal? That should buy me at least a couple more years to come up with something real to build down there."

Those calls would be mixed in of course with his daily correspondences with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's office: "Um, Hi.  It's Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt again, still wanted to let the Commissioner know that Green Bay is all set to host the draft whenever he's ready to make that announcement.  We have an arena and six hotels--so we should have no problems.  Just let the Commissioner know that he can reach me anytime--I'm always checking my phone.  OK thanks." 

And the calls to the Vatican: "Salve. This is Mayor Schmitt in Green Bay again.  Just wondering if the Pope saw the hashtag messages on Twitter about #popetogreenbay?  You can also let him know that we are ignoring that atheist group wondering why I'm so obsessed with the Holy Father--so he doesn't have to worry about that when he comes to visit.  Just pass along to the Pontiff that we are all praying for him to come to town, OK? Ciao."

It might be time for a little reality check at Green Bay City Hall that Walmart is the best offer the Mayor is going to get for that Broadway site anytime in the foreseeable future--and that he might be wise to take it--because I doubt many of his constituents have a "grand vision" of an empty lot for another decade and lost property taxes as well. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Magic, Babe and Ha Ha

The Packers drafting Ha Ha Clinton-Dix got me thinking that we don't have as many great sports nicknames as we used to.  Ha Ha is mercifully NOT Mr. Clinton-Dix's real first name (it's Ha'Sean--his grandmother is the one that started calling him Ha Ha as a child).  But it's not a good nickname either. 

Today's sports nicknames are either lame abbreviations of a player's first and last names--(i.e. A-Rod, K-Rod, MJ, AI and KG) or the players bestow it upon themselves as part of some slick Nike marketing campaign (like "King James" or "The Black Mamba" for Kobe Bryant).  C'mon man, you can't give yourself a nickname!  It's gotta be something somebody else thinks you should be called.

When I was a kid sports were filled with guys who were never known by their real names.  The NBA had The Iceman, Tiny, Pistol Pete, The Chief, World B Free, Clyde the Glide, and of course Doctor J.  Jerry West was so great he had TWO nicknames--Mister Clutch when he played, and The Logo since he retired (as his silhouette is used in the NBA emblem).

In baseball there was Boog, Mister October, Charlie Hustle, Hammerin' Hank, Pee Wee, The Mad Hungarian and the Human Rain Delay.  Football had The Snake, Broadway Joe, The Mad Bomber, The Hitman and Night Train.

Hockey had most of my favorites: The Golden Jet, The Rocket, Mister Hockey, The Hammer, The Grim Reaper and of course The Great One--which was certainly deserved for Wayne Gretzky.

The ultimate nicknames give the player a sense of being even "greater" than if they had just kept their regular names.  Do you think Eldrick Woods would have intimidated as many fellow competitors as Tiger has?  Would Chick Hearn (another great nickname--as opposed to Francis) have been as excited to describe the sweet no-look pass from Ervin Johnson--as he was for Magic?  And would George Herman Ruth have been as huge an American icon as "Babe" has been?

So let's get working on better nicknames for our athletes today.  We could start by changing "Ha Ha" Clinton-Dix to something that is actually funny--like the "Monica Lewinsky Treat".

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Difference Between "Coverage" and "Care"

One of the biggest problems I've had with the debate over the Affordable Care Act from day one has been semantics.  First off, use of the term "Affordable" has applied to a select few when it comes to the purchase of health insurance.  And those "young and healthy" enrollees had to pay more for their policies to offset the influx of "old and sick" that insurers were required to cover.  In addition, the cost of care has continued to increase at a pace faster than inflation (although, not quite as fast as before the ACA).  The medical device tax has raised the prices on equipment both consumers and providers have had to pay--and has sent that industry overseas for cheaper labor costs. 

Plus, President Obama has repeatedly said that Americans are "guaranteed to get the care they need".  That is also not true--particularly for the 7-8 Million people who joined Medicaid programs in the states that were suckered into taking the short-term increase in Federal funding.  You see, a new study finds that fewer than half of doctors in specialty and advanced care practices actually see Medicaid patients.  And the minority of doctors that do accept Medicaid have substantially longer wait times for appointments and procedures.

Physicians who decline Medicaid do so for the very simple reason that the government program grossly underpays for the services provided.  Plus (as you might expect from a government program) the process of filing a claim for payment is onerous and Uncle Sam slow pays--meaning practices have to carry costs much longer than they should.  This underpayment is another of the shady accounting tricks contained in the Affordable Care Act to make it seem cheaper than the Trillion dollar price tag attributed to it. 

A cardiologist that performs heart surgery or a dermatologist that treats a skin condition can expect Medicaid reimbursement of just a fraction of the actual value of the service.  Supporters of the practice claim it "helps drive down the cost of health care".  But you don't see Uncle Sam "driving down the cost of military defense" by telling Boeing that it's only going to pay 2-million dollars for that 10-million dollar fighter jet--because the Pentagon knows that Boeing would not be building any more fighter jets.

So as we "celebrate" so many more people having health care "coverage", keep in mind that about half of them will find it very difficult to actually use it to get health "care".

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The End of Work

Yesterday, I talked about the bleak job and economic future facing those graduating from American colleges this year.  A few hours later, Jim Sciutto--a reporter for CNN--retweeted on Twitter a graphic that shows compared to what young people in Europe are facing, the US is still the land of milk and honey:

Unemployment for those under the age of 25 is 23% in the European Union--with the rates reaching an astounding 54% in Spain and a whopping 57% in Greece.  And this is not a recent development, "youth unemployment" has been above 20% across the EU for better than 5 years now.

Sciutto calls this a "real and under-covered" crisis.  I'd disagree that it is under-covered.  Fiscal conservatives who oppose the Socialist systems of many EU members have known about this for some time--and have pointed to the effects of high taxes on income and corporations along with a safety net that is more like a safety hammock.  The reason the "mainstream media" doesn't report on European unemployment is that so many people over their are perfectly content not to work.

You don't see tens of thousands of young protesters taking to the streets of London, Madrid or Rome demanding the government get them jobs.  There are no violent clashes with police, or people throwing Molotov Cocktails through the front windows of corporate headquarters or bank branches in a "Proletariat" show of force against the "Bourgeoisie".  That is the kind of thing that garners "media attention".  The only such incidents that did make the news were violent protests in France by immigrants who are being denied work and in Greece--where residents were upset that overly-generous government benefits were going to be cut.

The lack of concern by those who are unemployed--or underemployed--in the European Union comes from the fact that most are more than happy with the way things are.  They may not work but they still have social insurance payments, free health care, free birth control, subsidized college education and rental assistance.  As long as you have money to sit in the cafe all day--and at the pub or discotheque all night--why ruin a good thing?  Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would probably applaud these deadbeats--saying how "great it is that these young people can ease their way into the real world and not have to worry about finding a job right away to pay for things."

If you notice, the one country bucking the trend in the EU is Germany.  Their unemployment rate for those under 25 went down over the last five years to just 7.7%.  That is due largely to the cultural heritage of young people moving into technical fields and apprenticeships--rather than attending liberal arts colleges--out of high school.  It's amazing what happens when you teach someone the value of work early in life--and stop giving them every reason not to earn a living.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

As You Go Out Into the Real World..........

If I was delivering a college commencement speech this month, I would probably go easy on the "optimism for the future" stuff.  A new report from the Economic Policy Institute finds job prospects for those just getting out of school continue to be pretty dismal.  This for a generation that already finds itself dealing with an unemployment rate of 14.5% for those under the age of 25 (and of course that only counts those actively looking for full-time employment and not those who have resigned themselves to part-time work and moving back in with Mom and Dad).

Also this week, one of the leading hedge fund investors recommended staying away from home construction companies because those in their twenties and early thirties today are likely never to own a house.  Mortgage lending has already fallen to its lowest level in 14-years, as renting (or the aforementioned living with Mom and Dad) becomes the only viable financial option for young adults without jobs and student loans on degrees in fields that have little demand.

A glimmer of hope appeared on the horizon this week as the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance released a report showing a potential workforce shortage in the state over the next 25-years--as Baby Boomers and Generation X'ers leave the workforce for retirement.  That could mean more employment options, higher wages and some job security--but employers are already warning that those entering the workforce don't have the job skills (or interest in the available positions) to be hired.  There are a lot of older workers on those paper machines, forklifts, welding kits and production lines--but it's a lot of MBA's and marketing degreeholders sitting around waiting for a job.  That's not exactly a good match.

And to add injury to insult, the percentage of older, sicker people who signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act was higher than that of the younger, healthier folks--so that will mean higher-than-anticipated premiums for those MANDATORY policies going forward. 

If the commencement speaker is older than the graduates, I would probably recommend taking a more apologetic tone in your speech.  Admit that we have screwed things up royally by borrowing away their futures--and then putting policies in place that will stick them with the bill.  I probably wouldn't remind them of all of the "Hope and Change" they were promised six short years ago.  And I would  work on my Humphrey Bogart impersonation to wrap up with "We'll always have health insurance."

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Latest Excuse

In the days before Brown vs Board of Education and school desegregation in the US, if someone said to you that white teachers wouldn't be able to teach black kids anything (or conversely, black children wouldn't be able to learn from white teachers) how would you have reacted?  You likely would have told that person that they were ignorant, a bigot and a racist.  You would have accused them of perpetuating stereotypes, insinuating white supremacy and trying to "keep minorities in their place".  And you certainly would have been right to say that.

So why then are we so accepting of the very same argument for poor performance by minority students in Wisconsin?  Superintendent Tony Evers has formed a task force to address the performance gap--and it's chairman stated on Upfront With Mike Gousha that one of the issues is that white teachers "don't relate" to black students.  In our own interview with Oshkosh School Superintendent Stan Mack last week, he called having a teachers with a "99% middle class white background is a 'problem'".

This of course begs the question of what difference race makes in knowing that 2+2=4.  And I'm pretty sure that George Washington was the first US President for blacks as he was for whites.  Of course, kids aren't asked straight-forward questions like that or their tests anymore.  Instead the questions are all word problems (Sally has two seasons of Game of Thrones downloaded on her IPad and two seasons of the Walking Dead.  How many seasons of shows can she watch since kids aren't expected to do homework anymore?) Or they ask kids how they "feel" about things (George Washington owned slaves, how do you think that makes African-Americans feel when they see his picture on the dollar bill?)

The "racial teaching disparity" is just the latest excuse those in education are using to avoid confronting the real issue behind the struggle of minority students in the classroom.  Remember, these are the kids who have from day one have had Early Childhood programs, Head Start, 4-year old kindergarten, full-day five-year old kindergarten, SAGE classrooms with lower student-to-teacher ratios, English as a Second Language programs, before school programs, after school programs, summer school programs, free and reduced school lunch, free school breakfast, summer breakfast and lunch programs and reading specialists at all grade levels--and they still aren't making the grade.

With taxpayers who have funded all of the above programs growing tired of being told they are the reason for these failures, those in education are now (unfairly blaming the teachers.  All in a continuing effort to avoid pointing the finger at the greatest source of minority failure--a lack of accountability on the part of parents.  The opportunity to learn and break out of the cycles of poverty and crime are provided 180-days a year in even the worst neighborhoods in America--staffed by people who truly care about the children they serve--regardless of their "socio-economic background".  It's about time those who wield the greatest influence over those children make it a priority to take advantage of those opportunities.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Numbers Game

With all of the numbers swirling about the Affordable Care Act, it's getting harder to keep track of what has been "accomplished" by the new law.  The White House tells us there were 8-Million sign-ups through the exchanges throught the extended, extended deadline.  The Health and Human Services Department admits that 6-Million people had policies canceled because of standards contained in the ACA.  The same Department claims 3.1-Million people under the age of 26 signed up for health insurance on their parents' plans--but that is actually a 2010 estimate of how many people could enroll that way--no actual numbers have been produced to support that claim.

Over the weekend in an interview with NBC, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi claimed 15-million people had "gained coverage" since the ACA went into effect.  Representative Pelosi must have access to numbers that no other source has been provided with yet.  Perhaps she has inside knowledge of how many people were covered in state Medicaid programs, or she saw employment data of people who were hired by companies offering private health insurance.  Either way, 15-million is a far cry from the 30-Million figure that she used tirelessly to quantify the number of people "desperate" for health insurance in 2010. 

Another new number over the weekend was the 248-Million dollars the state of Oregon spent in setting up their own health care exchange, only to admit that it will never work properly--and that next year, everyone will have to register through the Federal exchanges.  You may recall, President Obama took (mostly) Republican governors to task for not setting up their own exchanges--forcing more people to use the inoperable website to sign up for policies.  Imagine the $1000-per-person-signed-up cost of Cover Oregon applied to all fifty state budgets.

And then over the weekend we learned that only 2/3rds of all "enrollees" had actually paid their first month's premiums.  I'll admit, that was actually much higher than I expected.  If you had asked me to make a prediction on how many people had actually paid for their new policies, I would have put it at 1/3rd.  But the real important numbers--and hopefully they will actually be tracked (you never know with this administration)--will be how many people keep paying the premiums. 

There is a very easy way to game the system here.  The deadline for enrollment--in order to meet the Individual Mandate--will be February 15th from now on (barring Obama Administration extensions without Congressional approval).  Some of the insurance companies in the exchanges are giving enrollees up to 60-days to make that first payment--while still getting "coverage".  That means a person who goes to can sign up for a policy--get their number, which must be provided on their income tax return (since the IRS is the "enforcement agency" for the individual mandate)--and file their 1040 showing that they are "legally covered" all without spending a penny.  Math nerds--like Paul Ryan--probably have their graphing calculators ready to work out the charts that will show a rollercoaster-like pattern of enrollees before April 15th and the subsequent drop following tax day.

Those who love the ACA will tell you that it's "not about the numbers"--and that if even "one person now has health insurance it's all worth it".  But if you are going to have a sustainable program, the numbers have to line up eventually.  As I always like to say, Math always wins.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Secession Talk

This weekend, the Republican Party of Wisconsin will have to go through the embarrassing task of having to vote on a platform measure re-affirming the state's right to secede from the United States.  The idea comes from the nutjob Tea Party wing, which seems to have adopted the "leave it" part of the old saying "America, love it or leave it."

Nevermind that President Abraham Lincoln established a precedent for preservation of the Union at all costs by declaring war on the Confederate states that seceded 150-years ago.  And nevermind that leaving the Union would require a state to develop its own currency, border patrols, highway funding system, veterans administration, air traffic control network and military.  And nevermind that everyone who still wanted to remain a citizen of the United States would immediately flee--decimating the tax base and workforce to such an extent that an "independent" state would be doomed to near-immediate third world status.

What I find interesting is that the "Republicans" pushing the secession issue are the same folks who like to portray themselves as Super Patriots.  They claim to love America so much that they have to say the Pledge of Allegiance then sing the National Anthem AND God Bless America before they can start any of their rallies.  They are also the ones that fly multiple US flags outside their house, and the one in their side car window and they have the flag pin lapel on every shirt and jacket they own.

Yet when things turn a little Socialist in Washington, they want to bail on the whole thing--take their football (or their state in this case) and go home--rather than properly engaging in the system and working for change.

You don't like Common Core standards and kids learning that there are no "right or wrong answers" to anything anymore?  Then run for your local school board and tell your neighbors why modern teaching techniques are leaving us a nation of morons.  Can't stand government overspending and debt?  Campaign for your local city council or county board and get the taxes that people recognize the most reduced.  This is the approach that liberals adopted 30-years ago when they got tired of getting their brains beat in every national election--build from the bottom up and people won't notice the change going on around them. 

"Grassroots politics" is more than just standing in a park every few months, waving flags and yelling in a bullhorn.  I'll grant you that its harder work than just pouting in the corner and threatening to leave the country--but it will certainly be more effective in the long run.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

If It's White, It Must Be Racist!

As happens nearly every time we have a controversy involving race in this country, the so called "progressive thinkers" get out the biggest brushes they can paint as many people as the villains as possible.  Stepping up to the plate to fill that role in the Donald Sterling controversy is Los Angeles Times columnist Sandy Banks who decided to spread a little collateral damage to the National Hockey League and it's fan base.  In her article this week Banks had this suggestion for the soon-to-be-former-owner of the LA Clippers:

Let the real estate magnate and Clippers owner take his millions and buy a hockey team. Then he won’t have to worry about black superstars showing up for games on his girlfriend’s arm.

See, hockey is "safe" for racists because there aren't any black people there! (Which would come as a big surprise to the dozens of blacks and other minorities currently playing in the NHL--including two on the Anaheim Ducks--a team that Banks' newspaper gives marginal coverage to--not to mention the various ethnicities you will find at Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks games.)

Yes, minority participation in hockey is much smaller than any of the other major sports.  But when your best players come from places like Parry Sound and Brantford, Ontario or Russia and Sweden--and work their way to the NHL through places like Brandon, Manitoba and Grand Forks, North Dakota--achieving diversity is going to be a challenge.

Believe me, the NHL and USA Hockey have made efforts to reach out to minorities.  There are urban hockey youth programs that provide donated equipment and free ice time in an effort to offset what is usually the biggest factors in non-participation in the sport by kids of all colors--it's a very expensive game to play.  But such efforts can only do so much.  Barring passage of a federal law saying you MUST play hockey (like you MUST purchase health insurance) or the institution of some kind of racial quota on every team on every level--it will be up to minorities themselves to join the sport and increase the diversity.

But to people like Sandy Banks and others that see anything with majority of white people involved, there must be racism present.  Maybe in her next column she can suggest Donald Sterling sponsor a PGA golf tournament or start his own NASCAR team.