Monday, June 30, 2014

A Penalty Kick To the Gut

Forgive me if you have heard this before....but penalty shots are the DUMBEST way to decide a sporting contest ever devised by man.  We've seen two World Cup games decided by "Penalty Shootout" already--and the way things are going, there will be another five or so that end the same way the rest of the tournament.

There is nothing I hate more in sports than shootouts.  The NHL adopted them to break regular season ties in 2005--but still awarded one-point in the standings to a team that loses in the shootout (while still giving the team that wins 2 points, making an overtime game worth three points but a game that ends in regulation worth just 2 points which makes absolutely no sense).  That point is almost a concession: "We know this is a stupid way to decide a winner so we'll give you half-credit for the tie."  But the NHL does not use the penalty shootout in the Stanley Cup Playoffs--when, you could argue, the games are the most important.  Instead, it is played until a sudden-death goal is scored--five-on-five--just like you did in regulation. 

So why then does FIFA rely on the PK shootout to decide a winner in the biggest sporting event in the world?  Why stop at 120-minutes of "real soccer" to play a completely different game to send one nation into delirium and another into total despair?  It would be like the NFC Championship game finishing the first overtime still tied, and the teams kicking extra points until one missed and the other goes on to the Super Bowl.  Would that give you as a fan a satisfied feeling that the better team won that game?  Or game 7 of the NBA's Western Conference Finals being decided by a dunk contest after the second overtime.  Would you say the winning team "earned" their spot in the Finals?

The argument I get from soccer fans (who also admit to hating the Shootout) is that the players are so tired after a full game and overtime that you run the risk of injury by playing the "real game" until you have a winner.  Then might I suggest a more liberal substitution rule than just three for the entire game--regardless of how long it goes.  And go with sudden-death instead of playing the full 30-minutes of "extra time".  That adds a whole lot more drama and excitement to every run into the box--while shortening the game as well.

Besides, the Shootout is un-American.  We like it when people earn their victories the "hard way"--instead of having it just given to them from 12 yards away.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Now In a New Wrapper!!

Have you ever purchased an item because of the package it comes in?  Have you ever walked down the aisle and thought "that is the coolest looking box I have ever seen! I'm buying it--even though I don't want what's in it!"  Or have you ever tried a product--disliked it--but then bought it again when the manufacturer changed the wrapper?  If you are a smart consumer, you likely have never done that--because you know what is on the outside is just for show and what really matters is what is inside the package.

So why then do the major beer makers only talk about their cans and bottles?  I started thinking about this while listening to the Brewers game last night when Bob Uecker started talking about how Miller Lite is now "back in its original can!"  I know that when I make my beer buying decision, the originality of the can isn't that big a deal--but Miller believes that to the vast majority of drinkers, having a can that looks like it came from the 1970's makes a huge difference.

And let's not forget that the "original" Miller Lite can replaces the "punch top" can--which required drinkers to use a key or an old-fashioned can opener to punch a small hole after popping the top to "improve the flow of refreshment".  That replaced the "widemouth" can--which had a larger pop top opening to "improve the flow of refreshment".  And that replaced a series of "bold new look" cans for Miller Lite--which apparently suffered from a "boldness shortage" in the past.

Miller is not alone in this "it's all about the can" marketing effort.  Coors Light believes that it's consumers are so dumb they can't tell if a beer is cold unless the mountains on the label turn blue.  "The mountains are blue!  I can finally drink my Coors light safely!"  Coors Light was also first with the "aluminum bottle" which was "specially designed to keep your beer colder".  Meanwhile, Budweiser put the "born on date" on its cans--like there are giant "beer mothers" at the St Louis brewery pushing out product on a daily basis.

Now some beer packaging is important.  Brown and green bottles help keep certain kinds of brews from turning skunky in the light.  And the Guiness Draught bottles and cans have the CO2 cartridges in them that instantly carbonate the beer when you open them (although it still isn't as good as an actual draft beer at the bar).  But any other marketing based on the look or the shape of a bottle or can is just yelling about a wrapper.

As craft and specialty beers gain a greater share of the market--cutting into the sales of Miller Lite, Bud and Coors Light--perhaps the brewers might want to consider improving what is INSIDE the can and the bottle.  Maybe today's more discerning consumer might give Miller Lite a try if the ad campaign was something like "Now with real beer flavor!"

Thursday, June 26, 2014

That Darn First Amendment!

An on-line petition drive is trying to force the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce and the organizers of the Waterfest concert series to cancel Ted Nugent's appearance at the Leach Amphitheater July 26th.  The petition is the work of former Department of Corrections Supervisor Mark Bye of Schofield and Kevin Kratsch of Oshkosh.  They are liberals who don't like what Ted Nugent has to say about President Obama and other liberals.  And because they don't like what he has to say, they don't believe you should be allowed to hear him say (or sing) anything.

Let me preface my remarks by saying that I think Ted Nugent is a talentless, two-bit hack who is cultivating an image to play up to what has always been a fringe fan base.  "The Nuge" is a redneck, playing redneck music for rednecks to listen to while they drink their cheap beer.  And when he comes to the Leach next month, the rednecks will have a great time while Ted exercises his First Amendment right to express himself (within the commonly held standards of public decency). 

Will he make jokes about the President?  Probably.  Will he sing misogynistic songs about women and sex?  Guaranteed.  And is any of that illegal?  Absolutely not.  And are the fine people of Oshkosh being forced to attend that concert, to sing along to the songs and to laugh at the crude humor?  No they are not.

That is a little thing we like to call "freedom".  Liberals like Mark Bye and Kevin Kratch aren't real big on "freedom"--they prefer to tell people what is and isn't "acceptable speech" nowadays.  For instance, protesters who threaten Governor Scott Walker and Republican members of the Legislature are "standing up for the people" and are hailed as "heroes".  Those who question the policies of President Obama are "threats to the country" and "racists" who need to be silenced by any means necessary.

George Carlin in his famous "Seven Dirty Words You Can Never Say on Television" routine had my all-time favorite line when it came to hearing things that "offend" you.  "There are two dials on the radio.  One turns it off--and the other changes the channel!"  So Mark Bye (whom I doubt was ever going to drive to Oshkosh for a concert anyway) and Kevin Kratch can exercise their freedom to stay at home while the Motor City Madman puts on his show for what will likely be the biggest crowd at Waterfest this year.  And the people who pony up the money to attend can exercise their freedom to be audibly assaulted by low-brow humor and poorly-played guitar riffs.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Changes Need To Be Made

If Oshkosh is going to continue to promote itself as "Event City" then it needs to be also be "Prepared To Host Events City".  As the nightly debacle that is getting to and from Country USA shows, we don't have the infrastructure in place to handle ever-growing attendance at Ford Festival Park.

I had someone ask me yesterday why the city gives C-USA and Rock USA special event permits if they don't have any reliable parking on site and they make people walk in the road to get in.  What a lot of people don't realize is that the festival site is actually in the Town of Nekimi--so no event permit is required--even though plenty of police and ambulance services are required in that area.  Last night's crash that injured three pedestrians along South Washburn Street happened within the city limits.  And why were those people walking?  Because for the umpteenth consecutive year, it's too wet to park anywhere near the necessary number of vehicles safely on the grounds themselves--so people are being directed to lots throughout the city.

I was riding my bike to work this morning at 3:00 AM and was stopped by a pair of young ladies in cowboy boots along Westfield Street who had been wandering around for about a half hour in my neighborhood trying to figure out where they had parked.  Eeventually, we figured out it was the Sears lot and I directed them on their way.  I'm guessing that in the chaos that is departure time at C-USA they didn't get to the shuttle buses in time and were left to fend for themselves in walking back to the lot.  They should consider themselves lucky compared to the three folks that got run over while still trying to get into the grounds at 10:00 last night along a dark road.

So it is time for Winnebago County, the City of Oshkosh and the Town of Nekimi to demand that Starshow Presents make some major changes to both the facilities at Ford Festival Park and the processes they use to get their customers in and out of the grounds.  First up should be a requirement that on-site parking be in a condition that can actually be used regardless of how much rain we get.  If that means a million dollars worth of gravel--then I guess a million dollars worth of gravel needs to be spread around there.  Second should be a drastic reduction in the size and scale of camping allowed on-site.  There are a lot of people out there all week who don't even have tickets to get in to the concert--they just love being out there for the drinking and the drugs all week.  Third, Starshow should be made to pay for a lighted, paved walkway capable of handling the foot traffic generated by their events along Washburn Street.  The walkway should run from the gates all the way to the nearest sidewalk in the city.  You might want to put up a fence to separate it from the street as well--just to make sure the drunks leaving the grounds in the middle of the night don't go wandering into traffic.

Once all of these obviously-needed improvements are made to Ford Festival Park, then Oshkosh will be a little bit closer to "Prepared to Host Events City".

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Poor Little Rich Girl

As a Fiscal Conservative who is completely debt free and who lives within his means, I find former First Lady/Senator/Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent comments about her personal finances fascinating.  In her new book, and during an interview with ABC, Clinton claims that she and her husband left the White House in 2001 "flat broke and in debt".  While I'm sure she wanted to portray herself and Bill as a "simple public servants who are in government just to serve the people and not to get rich"--the Clintons instead come across as people who can't handle their money.

Keep in mind, that before leaving the White House, the Clintons had lived in a taxpayer-supported mansion for 20 of the previous 22-years.  Their costs of living, medical expenses, transportation and personal services were all covered for them.  For his 8-years as President alone, Bill Clinton was paid $1.6-million.  Even after taxes, that should leave plenty of cash to "get on with the rest of your life".  So it was obviously personal choices made by the Clintons that led them down the path of "financial ruin".

Take for instance the decision to live in New York.  Housing is not cheap in the Big Apple--and it's certainly more expensive than in Little Rock--where the Clintons last lived in a private residence.  But Hillary's chances of being elected Dogcatcher in that state probably weren't so good--and there was no Senate seat about to be handed to her in her native state of Illinois--so New York became the prerferred landing spot for the First Couple.  Then, they chose to send their daughter, Chelsea, to Stanford University--which had a tuition rate at the time of about 40-thousand dollars a year--followed by graduate school at the Ivy League's Columbia University--which is even more expensive.  Think of how much the family could have saved by sending her to the University of Arkansas.  And let's not forget the massive legal bills the Clintons ran up defending themselves in the Whitewater real estate scam and Bill's sexual harassment lawsuits.

Since leaving the White House, however, fortune has smiled upon the Clintons.  Bill got a $15-million advance on his Presidential memoirs, Hillary got $4-million for her first book and both have been paid hefty sums to go around talking about themselves to other rich people.  And that has created a new problem for them: they now pay a lot of taxes.

"We pay ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well off, not to name names; and we've done it through dint of hard work," she told the Guardian newspaper.

Who would have thought that Hillary Clinton of all people would be complaining about the tax rates that she has to pay.  You'd think she would adopt the attitude of Warren Buffett and beg Washington to tax her more.  While political pundits are expressing concern that Clinton's recent comments will make her seem "out of touch with regular voters" I think they will play perfectly with a society that increasingly see themselves as the victims--even if it's their own poor choices that put them in the hole.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Untouchables

I hope that by now you've seen the video of Congressman Paul Ryan's attempt to dress down IRS Commissioner John Koskinen at the Ways and Means Committee meeting on Friday.  Ryan used his five minutes of allotted time to call out Koskinen for what have been obvious attempts to stonewall the investigation into whether the agency targeted conservative political groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status.

What I found most disturbing during the exchange--and during most of the entire hearing--was not the refusal to explain how it just so happens that the IRS employees who may have spearheaded the targeting effort ALL had their agency emails lost in a "server crash".  Or that the IRS made no effort to salvage the hard drive data before sending them off to be destroyed.  What got my blood boiling was the smug look on Koskinen's face every time he was questioned by a Republican on the matter.

That is the look of someone who believes himself to be untouchable.  John Koskinen was not sitting in that hearing room worrying about going to prison, or having his agency shut down.  The worst that could happen is he might be "asked to resign" by the President--in which case he rides out of Washington with a huge severance package and a government pension.  Wow, what a "punishment". 

I'd be willing to bet that while Paul Ryan was going on his rant, Koskinen's main thoughts were about how his agency could make the Congressman's life a living hell.  If I was Paul Ryan, I'd probably quadruple check my last seven federal income tax returns--and I'd hire the best tax prep firm in the country for the rest of my life because we all know what happens when you try to poke that bear.

Now, John Koskinen is not the only government official to sit in front of a Congressional committee and act like those lawmakers had no right to interrupt his or her "busy day" of shuffling papers and checking their emails (when the server hasn't "crashed" of course).  Officials from the FBI, the CIA, the Pentagon, the VA and countless other agencies have donned that same smug look when called on the carpet to answer for yet another failure of oversight, operation or internal control.  And everyone of them has walked back out to their corner office to continue serving in the giant, unaccountable bureaucracy that is Big Government.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Blind Men and the Elephant

Both Hindus and Buddhists tell the parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant.  In the story, a group of blind men are all touching different parts of an elephant and get into an argument about what the animal must be like--based solely on the small part that they experienced.  It's meant to teach a lesson about perspective and the truth.  We have a modern-day equivalent of the Blind Men and the Elephant before us today with the release of the Scott Walker John Doe investigation documents.

There is something for everyone in the more than a thousand pages of documents, transcripts and memos.  Opponents of the Governor are seizing upon the phrase used by the special prosecutors to launch the investigation: "center of a criminal scheme".  It conjurs up the image of Lex Luthor or Al Capone sitting at a giant desk with designs of a grand operation on a bulletin board behind him.  As an added bonus, every liberal's favorite person--Karl Rove--is in the mix with an email exchange with the Governor.

Supporters of Scott Walker have plenty in there as well.  Including the findings by both a Federal and a Circuit Court Judge that those special prosecutors had not presented enough evidence to warrant a trial--or even to bring the matter to a criminal court--even as they continued to probe more and more conservative groups.

And so, both sides find their own "truth" in the investigation--depending solely on their personal biases.  But where does the actual truth--the whole elephant if you will--actually lie?  Here's what I see:  Both political parties have high-paid, high-powered, highly-creative legal teams that dedicate their entire time to examining current campaign finance laws with the finest of fine-tooth combs looking for any and all loopholes.  Those legal teams parse every word contained in the laws and cross-reference them with all other statutes on the books.  And after a thorough legal examination they provide party officials with plans and scenarios that go to the very limit--we are talking about a Planck Length--of legality.  Party leaders then put those plans into motion--hoping to avoid legal challenges--but confident that the confusing web of campaign laws will catch the predators and not the prey.  And when those legal challenges--like the one against Scott Walker did--come up empty--everything that was done becomes the new "playbook" for the next candidate.

I'm sure the Walker John Doe probe will lead to calls for more campaign laws and more restrictions that just feed the cat-and-mouse game played by the lawyers on both sides.  You make the rules, we find ways around them--all in the name of "winning" a zero-sum game.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Gift of Life

There have been a couple of events the past few weeks that have shown the impact being an organ and tissue donor can have on other people's lives.

Last week, the mother of an Appleton murder victim got to meet the man who received her son's heart after his death.  While it certainly doesn't replace having your son around, that mother is at least finding some solace in the fact that his death allowed another person to live a longer, healthier life.  And hopefully that will make his death seem a little less senseless than it was.

Then last Sunday, double heart transplant recipient Eric Compton finished second at the US Open golf tournament.  Compton was born with a condition that caused his own body to attack his heart muscles.  He got his first transplant when he was a teen--but that heart also failed on him--and in his late 20's he had to undergo a second transplant.  Today, he competes at the top level of golf with the heart of a teenage girl that was killed in a crash beating in his chest.

At her press conference last week, the mother of the murder victim talked about how proud her son was to register as an organ donor when he got his driver's license.  It reminded me of myself when I was 16 and looking forward to putting the orange sticker on my license as well. 

I can't imagine NOT wanting to be an organ donor.  It's not like you are going to be using them anymore when the curtain comes down on your life.  And you are going to be dead--so it's not like having them removed is going to hurt.  I am going to be cremated after my death, so why burn up a precious heart, kidneys, lungs or corneas when there is a long and growing list of people who could get years more use out of them.  To me, it seems kind of greedy to take them along to the grave (or the oven).

So why not register to become an organ and tissue donor today.  As we've seen recently, it is one of the greatest gifts you can ever hope to give.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Who Says There's No Such Thing As a Free Lunch?

Whomever coined the phrase "There's no such thing as a free lunch" apparently didn't have children in the Milwaukee Public School District.  MPS is looking to provide Free and Reduced Lunch Service to ALL kids attending their schools--regardless of need.  That would mean kids who come from families that can afford to pay for hot lunch will not be asked to contribute to the cost of the program anymore.

As you might expect, this is part of the Obama Administration's continuing effort to get as many people enrolled in Government entitlement programs as possible.  The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (which is responsible for the reduced portions that leave many high school kids hungry all afternoon) contains something called the Community Eligibility Provision--which holds that if you have enough students already in the Free and Reduced program, you don't have to have parents fill out those pesky eligibility forms to prove they are actually in need of government help.

Not surprisingly, the extra federal funding for the Community Elegibility Provision would not be enough to actually cover the cost of just putting all kids in a school district on the free lunch program--so taxpayers would have to foot some of the bill.  That would lead the educated voter to question why that expense wasn't being borne by the parents who could actually afford to pay for their kids' lunches--as it had been before.

Well, officials have a great answer for that.  You see, they believe that there is a "stigma" attached to being in the Free and Reduced program--so if everyone is getting lunch for free, nobody feels bad about themselves.  Jim Degan--President of the Wisconsin School Nutrition Association-- is quoted in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as saying "In schools, more discrimination occurs between students who have stuff and students who don't have stuff."

What amazes me is that 80% of MPS students are in the Free and Reduced program already--so how can a vast majority like that feel "stigmatized" when their condition is the norm in the school?  You would think that those kids whose parents are paying for their meals would feel like they are missing out on something almost everyone else is getting for free.

Fiscal Conservatives are usually portrayed as being "cold and heartless" when they call for reductions in entitlement and other government program sprending.  But all we are saying is that we could probably provide more effective assistance--with less money--if we only provide it to those that actually need it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Dangers of Social Media

Let me offer some advice to businesses both large and small: Don't ever try to be funny, cute, hip or cool on social media--it will invariably end in disaster.  The latest company to learn this the hard way is Delta Airlines--which had an incredibly embarrassing incident on Twitter last night.  The airline decided to jump on the World Cup bandwagon posting a congratulatory tweet to the US Men's National Team featuring the final score of their win over Ghana last night:

The only problem is, there are no giraffes in Ghana.  Ghana is along the Atlantic Coast of Africa, quite far from the Serengeti Plain where you actually would find giraffes.

Needless to say, Twitter exploded with mocking replies and retweets of the snafu--featuring snarky comments about the San Antonio Spurs and polar bears and how Delta is going to put the Eiffel Tower behind Portugal's score when they play the US on Sunday.

The greatest danger in social media is that it needs to be immediate in order to be relevant.  But immediacy doesn't have the built-in safeguards that other forms of advertising provides companies.  Every TV and radio ad you see and hear went through layers of marketing expertise and corporate oversight before it got on the air.  But I can guarantee that tweet never made it to Delta's Chief Marketing Officer--until it showed up in his or her Twitter feed--which is too late.  (Too add injury to insult, the next tweet apologized for the "precious Tweet" posted before--as someone failed to check spelling before hitting "post")

Don't expect the hubbub over this tweet to just fade away.  Because Ghana is a predominantly black country, you can rest assured that Toure and Rachel Maddow on MSNBC and Jon Stewart on the Daily Show will rake Delta over the coals for posting such a "racist and offensive tweet"--and call out the airline as another "giant corporation that thinks anyone who is not white lives in mud huts and wears grass skirts."

But what those liberals are forgetting is that social media is the realm of the young people who just came out of the indoctrination programs (i.e. public schools and universities) that they support.  Social Media Directors for many companies are surprisingly young--often recent graduates with degrees in the "burgeoning field"--armed with knowledge of the "science" of getting "likes", "rewteets" and the all important "followers".  That young person who posted the "giraffe gaffe" likely could have told you plenty about the native Ghanans' centuries' long struggle to overcome imperial European (read as: white) control and how Ghana and the entire African continent will bear the worst effects of Global Climate Change.  But ask that same "educated" person to find Ghana on a map of Africa?  Well that wasn't "important enough to be taught".

So business owners and corporate executives, lose the desire to be one of the "cool kids" and "rule Twitter".  Stick with the tried and true, "boring messages" of how your product is going to improve my life--at a cost lower than the competition's. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Win For Old School Basketball

This is a day of celebration for those of us who appreciate Old School Basketball.  Last night, the San Antonio Spurs finished off a complete dismantling of the two-time defending NBA Champion Miami Heat with another dominating win.  And they did so playing a style of hoops that harkens back to the days when I could still run and jump.

No team in NBA history has been as under-appreciated for their greatness than the Spurs.  Five titles since Tim Duncan joined the team--dating back to 1999--and yet no one ever uses the term "the Spurs dynasty".  It's obviously not for lack of performance or success.  The reason San Antonio gets no love from the pundits is because they play what is considered today to be "boring basketball".  They pass a lot.  Nobody really dunks.  Tim Duncan is an endangered species--a big man who actually prefers to play with his back to the basket and score off of low-post moves rather than hang out at the three point line and jack jumpers.

It amazes me when the sports talking heads marvel at the Spurs ball-movement on offense--calling it a "thing of beauty".  Well, until a certain #23 started playing basketball for the Chicago Bulls, that was the way nearly ALL teams at ALL levels of basketball played the game.  Move the ball and yourself until you get a good look at an open shot.  The Jordan and Post-Jordan era of hoops has been a slow decay of fundamentals--replaced with sheer athleticism and attacking the basket--or spot up jump shots from three-point-range. 

And yet, once the Spurs finish their season, the appreciation for their game goes away.  There are no Air Duncan shoes.  There is no "Be Like Manu (Ginobili)" Gatorade campaign.  There will not be an hour-long "Decision" made-for-tv spectacle when Tim Duncan announces if he will or won't retire this season.  I'd be willing to bet that the number one topic on sports talk radio and TV will not be "how do the Spurs keep doing it?"--but rather "What does LeBron have to do to win another title?"

Well let them focus on the less-talented, more-flashy losers of this most recent Finals series.  For those of us who prefer the game in its purest form, we will bask a little bit longer in the glow of another title for Old School Hoops--and hope that a new generation of young players might want to work on their passing, their ball-handling and their mid-range jumpers and post moves--rather than their trash talk.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Why It's OK to Suck at Soccer

The World Cup is underway and Team USA Coach Jurgen Klinsman is in hot water with American fans for admitting that his team has no chance to win.  Personally, I have no problem with Klinsman's comments and I applaud him for his brutal honesty.  The Men's National Team is in a transitional stage from a group of veterans who saw unprecedented international success to younger guys who are still learning the international game.  Yet, there are many fans with the delusional belief that the Red, White and Blue are going to put on this Cinderella run out of the "Group of Death" and give 21st Century sports fans their own "Miracle on Grass" moment.

While I am admittedly jingoistic--and believe that the US should crush every other country in every other sport--I am more than willing to concede soccer to the international community.  I consider it an affront to our country to lose in Basketball, Football, Baseball and Hockey--but I am perfectly okay with us sucking at Soccer.  And there are three pretty basic reasons for that.

One, soccer is an incredibly rudimentary game, and we are more advanced than that.  As many third world countries prove, to play soccer all you need is a ball and some space.  Here in the US, we've moved on to sports that require lots of equipment--and expensive equipment at that.  Ask any hockey player or golfer how much they drop on their gear sometime.  It would probably be enough to live fairly comfortably in soccer hotbeds like Cameroon and Ghana.  We also like sports where we get to use our hands and throw things.

Two, we hate flopping.  The first game of this year's World Cup encapsulated perfectly what Americans despise about soccer as Brazil was awarded a pivotal penalty kick after one of its players went down like he had been shot, stabbed and poisoned by one of the Croatian defenders.  The only problem was, multiple replays showed the Croat missed the Brazilian by about six inches.  Brazil converts the PK--breaks the 1-all tie and goes on to win--while the announcers can defend it only by saying "That's soccer!"

And three, international soccer is the most corrupt sport on the planet.  Comedian John Oliver had a brilliant piece on his show Last Week Tonight about how FIFA (the governing body of soccer) is the most evil entity in the world--stealing money from poor countries, taking bribes to decide where to hold World Cups and to get members into leadership positions.

What's more, there have been widespread match-fixing controversies and referees who have admitted cheating for certain teams.  I'll grant you, Professional Wrestling has a big fan base here in the US--but we still prefer our real sports to be on the up-and-up. 

So don't get too disappointed if Team USA bows out early from this year's World Cup--it's just not in our DNA to be good at it.  Kind of like Socialism.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The New Shotgun Wedding

As a Libertarian at heart, I couldn't care less about who is marrying whom in Wisconsin.  But I do have a couple of concerns about the wave of same-sex marriages taking place this week in the wake of Judge Barbara Crabb's ruling to strike down the state constitutional amendment banning the practice (which I voted against for the same reason that Representative Gregg Underheim expressed at the time: this is not what a constitution is to be used for).

First off, the rush to tie the knot is giving this process a sort of Las Vegas-drive-thru-wedding-chapel kind of feel.  Marriage ceremonies are being held in hallways and on stairwells--mostly out of fear that if the parties involved wait another two minutes a different federal judge will swoop in and rule that their marriage license is now invalid.  Same-sex marriage has become the new "shotgun wedding"--with "let's do it before my baby bump start showing" or "quick, before we sober up" being replaced with "there's another court hearing scheduled for Friday--we have to do it now!"

I would think that a truly "equal" marriage would mean it starts off the same as nearly every other in society.  One of the (unnecessary) arguments that was put forth in past debates over gay marriage is that it would be "good for the economy"--as thousands of couples planned elaborate ceremonies and the rest of us would be out buying wedding gifts.  But where are the wedding parties with 12-bridesmaids dresses?  All of the wedding planners having to deal with two Bridezillas (both men)?  And where are all of the extra bookings for Cher impersonators?

A more serious concern is that state law is currently ill-prepared to deal with same-sex divorce--particularly as it pertains to custody of children.  I know we would all like to think that the couples tying the knot this week will stay together forever.  But things change and divorce is a 50-50 likelihood.  Under current state law, two people of the same gender cannot claim parental rights to a child.  And with biological rights being a bit "difficult" in these cases--gay couples currently with kids who choose to divorce will see the partner with the parental rights have the ability to shut the other one out--with no legal recourse.  In states where same-sex marriage has been legal for some time, those laws have been amended--but judges here just can't say "well, that's the way they do it in California--so that's the way we'll do it here."

The better process would be the establishment of a date--beyond all of the appeals and counter-suits--where Judge Crabb's ruling should take full effect.  Remember, when Prohibition was repealed, the bars didn't open the next day.  There was a date set that the new amendment would go into effect--and the brewers and distillers prepared their products with that day in mind.  That would give lawmakers the time needed to address the changes and couples the time (without any further fear of having another court case take away the marriage) to hold  ceremonies equal to what their straight friends have had for centuries.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Neverending School Year

I have a question today for all the Oshkosh students who have spent the past two weeks or so of beautiful spring and summer days stuck in classes: Has it been worth it?

I don't mean do you think going to school is worth it.  That answer is obviously "yes".  I mean is it worth sitting inside a building on days like we've had this month while you had days off during some of the worst times of the year. 

Were you able to lay out in the sun and work on your tan on Friday, October 25th--when you had off of school for no particular reason?  Did you go for a bike ride on Monday, November 11th while teachers worked on "Professional Development and Record Keeping"?  Did your family go on a nice day trip on Friday, November 22nd--instead of to parent-teacher conferences?  Did you run around at the park on Friday, November 29th to work off that big meal you had on Thanksgiving?  Was it sunny and 75 on Monday December 23rd for the start of 8-day, non-denominational "Winter Break"?  Did you got to the water park on any of the 6-days off from April 18th through the 25th for non-denominational "Spring Break"?

Mother Nature robbed you of even more time off this year.  Friday, March 14th and Friday, May 23rd would have been additional days without classes if it hadn't been so darn cold in December and January that school was closed.  And now you're stuck with an another extra day on Thursday of this week as a snow day make up.

I can never remember going to school this late into June.  We started classes around Labor Day weekend, but we didn't get a week and a day off for "spring break" and our parents went to teachers' conferences at night--after we had gone to classes that day.  But if you and your parents want all of that wasted time off when the weather is crappy and there's really no place to be other than in school--keep accepting these schedules from the District.

Of course, even if you kids were off the past few weeks, you teenagers probably would have just been sleeping until noon and spending the rest of the day in front of the TV, playing video games, chatting, texting, Instagramming and reading SlenderMan stories.  You younger kids would have been told by your parents to stay inside too--because outside are where the sex offenders, the stinging bugs, the dirt and the germs are.  So I guess you may as well be stuck in a classroom where at least your time will be a little better spent.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Choking Bum of a Horse

On Saturday, California Chrome failed in his effort to capture horse racing's Triple Crown--finishing fifth in the Belmont Stakes.  In all of the post race analysis--on TV, Radio and on-line--the general consensus was that Chrome just didn't have it on Saturday and that a fresher, faster horse--Tonalist--ran a better race.  Racing insiders said the result showed just how hard it is to win a Triple Crown and how California Chrome's close call was good for the sport.

What you did not hear was anyone saying that the horse "choked".  None of the analysts said California Chrome "blew it".  There was no trending hashtag on Twitter mocking his inability to win.  And this morning, we do not consider Chrome to be the worst racehorse in the history of the world.

Yet if it had been a human athlete that lost such an important event--after the same amount of buildup and hype heading in--those are exactly the terms we would be using to describe his (or her) performance.  Color commentators like Johnny Miller, Cris Collinsworth or Charles Barkley would be raking a similar loser over the coals--questioning his (or her) "heart", "desire" or "effort".  Screamin' A Smith and Skip Clueless would dedicate an entire hour of ESPN airtime to whether or not such a human athlete is a choker or lacks the guts to step up in the "big situation".  Twitter muscles would have been flashing big time Saturday night with memes of the "loser" being beaten by a sloth or a tortoise.  And we'd all be putting that athlete into the dustbin of history as "overrated".

The Buffalo Bills made it to four consecutive Super Bowls in the 1990's--yet nobody talks about them being among the greatest dynasties in the history of football.  Instead, they are considered among the greatest LOSERS of all time--and were a national punchline for a decade.  Joe Namath, on the other hand, wins one Super Bowl--never comes close to playing in another--and he is considered a "greater" quarterback than Jim Kelly. 

Now you could say that a horse doesn't comprehend "pressure"--so it's not possible for him to "choke".  But if pressure is why some athletes fail to win--then why didn't California Chrome run better?  He had no idea what was at stake Saturday--except that by running faster, the tiny man on top of him would stop hitting him with a whip.  Perhaps it's because we know that a horse doesn't feel shame or embarrassment that we don't heap scorn upon it when it loses.  It just doesn't give us the same "good feeling" to put someone else's effort down--when we don't even play the game.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Teach Your Children Well

As the investigation into the stabbing incident involving three 12-year old girls in Waukesha continues, it will be interesting to see how much of the spotlight falls upon the parents of the alleged attackers.  12-year olds by nature are not homicidal maniacs and they don't spend months plotting ways to kill their friends in order to appease fictional on-line characters.

An article in the on-line edition of The Daily Mail may provide us some insight into the home life of one of the alleged attackers.  The reporter went through the social media profiles of the parents of the 12-year old and found them to be members of the "Goth" lifestyle.  The father seems particularly wrapped up in it--selecting an on-line name paying homage his favorite death metal band--DeadBoy--and using email addresses of "ILOVEEVIL" and "ILOVEEVIL666".  The girl's mother also enjoys decorative skulls and pictures of cemeteries.  The parents also appear to have known about their daughter's obsession with the character "Slenderman" and may have encouraged it--again posting pictures that she had drawn of the "monster" that preys upon little kids. 

No one is saying that the parents of this troubled little girl were raising her to be in some Satanic cult or were teaching her that she needed to be attempting murders to curry favor with fake monsters.  I'm also not suggesting that there be a government crackdown on the love and fascination with "The Dark Side".  But there does come a point in a person's life where they just have to grow up.  Being "Goth" is fine if you are a 15-year old with no friends and you feel like the rest of the world hates you and that you just wish that everyone else would be as miserable as you are.  And thinking that scary stories are cool and that evil lurks around every corner is fun around Halloween.  But to live it every day when you are in your thirties and your forties--that's just pathetic.  And to pass that along to your child--who doesn't have the mental capacity to always recognize the dividing line between reality and fiction--that is just irresponsible.

The attorney for the girl accused in the stabbing is already building a mental illness defense--which may be absolutely correct.  But let's not allow the parents who created the culture of death, "evil" and living in a fantasy world in which this girl was forced to live not go without some of the blame here as well.  The old adage is still correct, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Misogynist Weather

The "implicit sexism that permeates American society" has reared its ugly head again--in a most unlikely place: the weather.  A new study by researchers at the University of Illinois and Arizona State University puts forth the theory that hurricanes with "female" names kill more people than hurricanes with "male" names because people "don't respect" anything with a female connotation. 

You probably had the same reactions to hearing about that "research" as I did.  One--did we cure cancer and Alzheimer's so we had time to study this crap?  And two--let me guess, federal grants funded the research of this crap.

The researchers based their theory on studying death tolls from hurricanes dating back to the 1950's and seeing if more people were killed by "female storms" than by "male storms".  They then asked people to guess if they would evacuate a city or expect a storm to be stronger based on its name.  They did not talk to people who actually live in hurricane-prone areas why they do or don't evacuate during storms.  I'll admit that I haven't seen every interview with every person who survived being stranded in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina--but I cannot recall anyone saying that they didn't leave town because it was a "girly storm".  As I recall, they (along with Democrats) blamed their failure to evacuate the city on President George W Bush--because he didn't send the buses, the armored personnel carriers, the boats and the helicopters directly to their front doors to pick them up.

Despite the junk science behind the "research" into storm sexism, there will likely still be calls to change the way we name hurricanes in order to "protect people from their own ignorance".  The obvious solution would be to name all storms after men--so everybody "respects their power" (remember, all hurricanes were given female names up until the Womens' Lib folks protested in the late 1970's that it was "sexist").  But women's groups will likely protest that too--claiming "female storms have a right to power and to be feared as well!"  The White House will likely issue an executive order requiring a nationwide "education program" to teach Americans that female hurricanes demand respect just like their male counterparts.  Such education will begin as early as 3-years old in Federal Head Start Programs.  Celebrities can do commercials reminding everyone to treat the female storms "fairly".  President Obama can say that he "sees his own daughters in those hurricanes".  And the First Lady can lead the social media campaign by tweeting #respectforfemalestorms.

My suggestion would be to just name hurricanes after things that are actually scary.  Would you stick around if Hurricane Godzilla was about to make landfall?  Or Tropical Storm Prostate Cancer?  Or Typhoon Zombie Attack?  Of course, the other option would be to follow the lead of the transgender community and just allow the storms to "self-identify".

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

It Only Matters Who Says It

Tucked between the photos of female celebrities who "forgot" to wear underwear under their short dresses and fawning op-ed pieces on the greatness of President Obama, I found a very interesting article on the Huffington Post website.

It's a follow up story to a guest who appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show 25-years ago on the topic of the cycle of poverty and welfare dependence in families.  The episode featured Altomese Sanders--an unmarried mother of two who had been on welfare for nine years--and her mother Dorothy--who had been on public assistance for 28 YEARS!  What really caught my attention (besides the length of time these women had been living on the dole) were some of the quotes--either from the original episode--or from today. 

Back then, Dorothy Sanders told Oprah: "It wasn't a great feeling to be on welfare, but sometimes the system locks you in. I mean, it's easier to take the money than [spend] eight to 10 hours away from the kids."

Doesn't this sound exactly like Congressman Paul Ryan when he discusses entitlement and welfare reform?  Here you have a 28-year recipient of public assistance admitting that it "punishes" you for working--and her comments are seen as "insightful and thought-provoking".  But when Paul Ryan uses the very same phrases, he is called "cold-hearted and racist".

In that same episode, Oprah asks Altomese why she had a second child--while on welfare--by a different father: "I really just don't understand why if you have one child that you really cannot afford to take care of, I don't understand why you then have a second child," 

Now when Laura Ingraham (heard daily 9-11am here on WOSH) says the same thing on her show or on Fox News about unwed mothers on welfare she is criticized as "perpetuating the Republican War On Women, and not addressing the real problem" (which is apparently the Koch Brothers causing 47% of all births in the US to be to unwed mothers).  But when Oprah asks that directly to the face of a single mother, it is "what all of us were wondering ourselves".

As it turns out, Altomese turned her life around since her first 15-minutes of fame--going back to school and becoming a realtor and a property owner--and she gives a simple phrase from Oprah all the credit:  "Once I got home, I realized I wanted more for myself.  Oprah said something that was very astounding to me. She said, 'Altomese, you know better.' That 'Altomese, you know better' stuck with me to this day."

Now what if President George HW Bush had said the same thing to Altomese during one of those staged, "roundtable discussions" that politicians used back then to make it look like they are "learning first-hand the problems 'real' Americans face"?  He would have been pilloried for being "out of touch with the poor" and that he was "speaking from a position of White Privilege"--because we all know that minorities cannot survive without giant Government programs promising to fulfill (but not delivering) their every need.

It just goes to show that its not what is said--but who says it--that matters nowadays.

Monday, June 2, 2014

It's Complicated

Like nearly everything else involved in the War On Terror, last week's release of American soldier Bowe Bergdahl is very complicated.  The Taliban released Bergdahl after five years of captivity somewhere in Afghanistan (and possibly Pakistan as well).  In exchange the US released the five men who had been held at Guantanamo Bay for the longest periods.

What is proving to be difficult to work out is how to accurately portray this exchange due to the ambiguous nature of this now 13-year fight.  First off, was Bowe Bergdahl actually a "prisoner of war", or was he a "hostage"?  Bergdahl was an active duty Private stationed in-country at the time of his capture--but nearly everyone agrees that he had deserted his post and left his base before the Taliban got him.  It was not like there was a firefight and he surrendered after realizing there was no hope for escape.  His own writings to his parents show his dis-satisfaction and disillusionment with being in the military.

The five men being released by the US are former top Taliban officials--including their defense minister and the former head of the army.  Most of them had been held at Gitmo for more than ten years after they were captured during fighting or in raids on Taliban compounds.  They have alternately been referred to as "terrorists" and "enemy combatants"--leading to legal questions about their status and if the Army can hold them indefinitely (or until the Taliban and Al Qaeda gives up fighting).

Republicans took to the Sunday morning talk shows to criticize the Administration for the swap--saying that it will only encourage more hostage-taking by the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the region--in the hopes of winning more release of their captives.  But they might be better off considering this a prisoner of war exchange.  Trading POW's is a practice that has been common for centuries (Senator John McCain--one of the critics--knows that first-hand).  And by labeling Private Bergdahl and the Taliban officials released by the US as "POWs", it will give some credibility  to our claim that all of those being held in Cuba are not entitled to trials in US courts to argue for their release. They should be held until there is an official end to the fighting.

The one real concern in the Bergdahl swap is that he will return to Idaho and eventually settle into a "normal American life" again.  But the five Taliban prisoners will more than likely return to their efforts to kill Americans again (following a negotiated one-year travel restriction in Qatar).  Of course--like many other decisions in the Obama Administration--that will be left to another President to deal with the ugly aftermath.