Friday, August 29, 2014


The Wisconsin Badgers open their 2014 Football campaign on Saturday night--so that means it's time for my annual pre-season predictions.

---The Badgers open with a toughie this year, traveling to Houston to take on LSU.  Much has been made about Wisconsin's struggles with the SEC over the past decade and unfortunately, I think that continues this weekend.  Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement rush for over 100-yards apiece in this one--as Head Coach Gary Anderson can't decide on a quarterback and comes out in the Single Wing directly snapping it to one of his halfbacks on every play.  But the inexperience defense (and special teams) give up too many big plays and the Tigers win 38-28.

---Bucky bounces back the next week as Melvin Gordon rushes for 250-yards and Corey Clement goes over a hundred as the Badgers stomp Western Illinois at home 45-20.

--After a week off, the Badgers face a tough battle against a solid Bowling Green at Camp Randall.  Gordon goes for two bills again, CC for hondo and Wisconsin holds on late 37-34.

--The Badgers wrap up the non-conference schedule with a walk over South Florida as Melvin Gordon breaks the 200-yard mark again--as does Corey Clement--and it's UW 49-20.

--Enough with the warm up games, it's time to play some Big Ten Football as the Badgers travel to take on Northwestern.  Wisconsin always struggles with the Wildcats stupid Spread Option Offense--but Coach Anderson has things figured out--just run the ball on every play and keep it away from the 'Cats.  Melvin Gordon with 300-yards in this one and the Badgers outgun them 56-48.

---After that track meet, the Badgers catch a break with a terrible Illinois team.  MG gets 200 IN THE FIRST HALF and Wisconsin cruises at home 41-17.

---And then comes the stupid part of the season, as Wisconsin hosts Maryland as a "Big Ten Rival" for the first time ever.  Why Maryland is in the Big Ten is beyond me.  (Actually, I do know--it's all about the money).  Wisconsin is able to overcome the confusion caused by the ugliest jerseys in college football and they roll the Terrapins 37-19--with Melvin Gordon getting his expected 200 yards again.

---The Badgers complete the back-to-back run of Teams That Don't Belong In The Big Ten with a 63-7 rout of Rutgers in New Jersey.  MG gets a buck-fifty in the first half and rests--allowing Corey Clement to go over 200-yards for the first time.

---Back to "real" Big Ten teams after that with a trip to Purdue.  The Badgers struggle here but whomever has won the quarterback position by default by this time sneaks one in from a yard out in the final minute and Wisconsin win 47-40.  Gordon and Clement each over 150-yards rushing.

---Then Nebraska comes to Camp Randall.  The over-rated CornShuckers will be talking big all week--and then watching now-Heisman Trophy Candidate Melvin Gordon running past them all day for over 200 and the Badgers win 30-14.

---By this time Wisconsin's 9-game winning streak and Gordon's phenomenal season of being the Badgers only offensive weapon will be garnering national attention.  He'll be on the cover of Sports Illustrated.  ESPN College Gameday will be in Iowa City.  And then both he and Corey Clement will get hurt and the Hawkeyes will upset the Badgers 31-14 to end all talk of National Championship in Madison.

---The Badgers bounce back the final week of the regular season because MInnesota comes to town for their annual whipping in the Paul Bunyan's Axe game.  Wisconsin makes it ELEVEN IN A ROW!!  Yes, ELEVEN IN A ROW!!  77-7

---With a 7-1 record, the Badgers win the Western Division (THANK YOU FOR DIVISIONAL ALLIGNMENT AND NAMES THAT MAKE SENSE!!) and advance to the Big Ten Championship Game against Michigan State.  The Spartans play 11 in the box to take away the running game and the third string walk on who beat out Joel Stave and Tanner MacAvoy to be the starter by this point of the season can't get it done and the Badgers lose 10-7.

---Despite rushing for more than 2000 yards, Melvin Gordon loses the Heisman Trophy to some quarterback that plays the spread and threw for 8000-yards and 100-touchdowns.

----It's back to Orlando for the Capital One Bowl for Wisconsin on New Year's Day.  SEC 3rd place team Auburn awaits them (the conference placing two teams in the first ever Playoff games).  Melvin Gordon wraps up his Badger career with 250-yards--but it's all for naught as the defense gets torched by the Tigers speed again and Wisconsin loses 38-35.

This solid season could go out the window if Coach Anderson decides to throw the ball more than 10 times in any game--since he has nobody that can throw accurately and nobody who can get open and catch the ball.  It might be boring to run every down--but far fewer bad things can happen.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


There have been a few things going on recently that should have you scratching your head and saying "Hmmmmmm....."

---Earlier this week, we had a spokesman for the Wisconsin Association for Retired Americans join us on WOSH to promote a town hall meeting on "retirement security".  One of the talking points he brought up in the interview--and that was also sold at the meeting--is that the state should set up a retirement system for private-sector employees similar to the one for public sector employees.  When Bob Burnell asked why people in the private-sector couldn't just put money into Roth IRA's or other investments, the spokesman said "That is too risky! You could lose money!"  What he apparently doesn't know is that the Wisconsin Retirement System takes the tax dollars municipalities contribute on behalf of their employees AND INVESTS IT IN THE STOCK MARKET AND OTHER HOLDINGS!!!  How else do you think they pay out the guaranteed benefits that almost always exceed contributions over the lifetimes of those workers?  Of course, if it is a government-run system, that would require a union-staffed bureaucracy to operate--and if there is a decline in principal and returns, Joe and Jane Taxpayer would be there to make up the difference.  Hmmmmm.......

---Earlier this month there was an upset in the Democratic primary in State Senate District 17--where a former public employee who ran a "grass-roots" campaign edged out the candidate hand-picked by Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson--and who raised far more money--by just seven votes.  That led to a recount this week--and news that clerks have somehow "lost" more than 100 ballots.  Equally "surprising" is that the establishment candidate has already picked up enough votes in what has been recounted to erase the original deficit.  So a darkhorse candidate wins a primary in district that Democrats desperately need to win if they are going to regain majority control in the Senate and ballots mysteriously go missing?  Hmmmmmm....

---MTV maintains that it had no idea that "singer" (quotations used to indicate questionable status) Miley Cyrus was going to have a homeless guy accept one of her trophies at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday.  The obvious publicity stunt was likely meant to "heal the image" of a former child star who has decided to market herself as the nastiest, over-sexed woman in entertainment (a battle that currently involves about 90% of all female music artists) and who embarrassed herself at the same show last year by "twerking" on stage.  But for anyone who knows something about TV production, camera positions are set for a show through a process called "blocking"--something that is perfected through rehearsals (either with actors themselves or with stand-ins)--yet without any idea that this was about to happen, MTV had all the perfect camera angles to catch Ms Cyrus sitting behind her "hero"--tearing up on cue--as he stumbled through his "unprepared" acceptance speech.  Hmmmmm.....  Oh, and the guy is wanted on an outstanding warrant in Oregon.  Hmmmmm....... 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Send In the Clowns

I wasn't in the Federal courtroom in Chicago yesterday, so I can't be sure of everything that was said, but if the Associated Press story was an accurate portrayal of the oral arguments presented to the three judges of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeal--then the Attorneys General of Wisconsin and Indiana should have been wearing red wigs, bright red balls on their noses and huge, floppy shoes--because they sounded like a bunch of clowns.  The arguments presented to the appeals judges were so laughably bad they were almost embarrassing. 

Take for instance the claim that allowing same-sex marriage will "destroy the institution of marriage".  Were the AG's referring to the same "institution" that features celebrities divorcing after just a few months of marriage?  Or reality show contestants getting married after knowing each other for all of a month?  Or the ability of anyone to get married at a drive thru window on the Las Vegas Strip with an Elvis impersonator officiating?  Or were they referring to the "institution" that ends in divorce more than 50% of the time in the US?

And then they tried to make the argument that a one-man-one-woman marriage is a "tradition" in Wisconsin.  It was also a "tradition" for generations to take your kids to smokey bars on Friday and Saturday nights to hang out with your friends. Or to drive home from said bars after having a few too many and having the local cops just tell you to "be more careful" after they spotted you weaving all across the road.  It also used to be a "tradition" to hand out home-made candies at Halloween, send cookies with peanuts in them to school or to work as birthday treats and to ride your bike without a helmet in heavy traffic.

The AG's even tried to lay a little psycho-babble on the judges, claiming that children "need to have a mother and a father in their lives to be successful".  Perhaps they should save that message for the millions of "heterosexual" single-mother families across the country.  And the deadbeat dads who pay neither money nor attention to their children from the day they are born.  Or the tens of thousands of children in the foster care system who would be more than happy to have two Moms or two Dads--as opposed to neither of each.

I'm sure that the members of the groups supporting the same-sex marriage ban wanted to jump up and tell the judges that "It's a sin and God will punish us if we let it happen!"--but they had to bite their tongues knowing that argument holds absolutely no water this legal debate.  This is a matter of the State recognizing marriages--and the Government is to be a-religious in its application of the law (unlike the Hobby Lobby decision in which the Government was denying individuals--who are the ones bestowed with religious freedom--to right to practice as they see fit).

It is time for opponents of same-sex marriage to realize that the supporters have the most powerful weapon in this fight--the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.  I would suggest that they instead work on developing a new "Governmental term" for two people forming a legal union--and return the use of the word "marriage" to what it was originally: a religious rite of the Christian church--or don the red wig, the bright nose bulb and the huge, floppy shoes themselves.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Be Careful What You Wish For

I have to give the self-appointed "leaders of the African-American Community" who are calling for mandatory use of cameras and microphones on police officers working in urban settings some credit.  By doing so they are taking the risk of losing control of the narrative in incidents like the one that happened recently in Ferguson, Missouri.

Right now, every young black man shot by a white police officer was innocently minding his own business until that member of an "institutionally racist" department started harassing him for no good reason.  That harassment continued until the confrontation turned physical--and the officer shot and killed the victim despite the young man not having any weapons.  Because the police response will always be "The matter is under investigation and we will not comment until that probe is completed", that leaves the media with just one version to present over and over and over again.

But when you introduce a camera to that same situation, you now have a dispassionate witness to all of the events.  A witness that doesn't have an agenda, a witness that doesn't know anything about race and a witness that can provide near-instant recall of what happened on video time after time after time. 

And if that video shows suspicious activity on the part of the victim, if it shows resistance or defiance, if it shows attempts to flee, if it shows sudden movements, if it shows an attempt to attack, or if it shows something that appeared to be a gun or another weapon in the hand of the victim--then the element of "complete innocence" is lost.  And once that is gone, so too will be Anderson Cooper 360, the busloads of out-of-town protesters, the break from Presidential vacations to issue a special statement from Martha's Vineyard and the celebrities at the funeral.

Obviously, the call for cameras on all cops is meant to be a form of intimidation--a sort of "we've got our eyes on you at all times" idea that they want to plant in the minds of officers.  But will that self-doubt override their training in dealing with potentially dangerous situations?  Will an officer really think "How will this look on video?" before he pulls his weapon to protect himself or others?  I doubt it.

I have no problem with officers being mobile recording devices.  As I said before, having an unbiased witness to all incidents is a valuable resource.  It's just that not everyone is going to like what they see and what they hear.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Lack of Coordination

The more information that is released in the John Doe probe into Governor Scott Walker's recall campaign and conservative groups, the more I can see why prosecutors had to drag this out--and why the groups are claiming their First Amendment rights are being infringed upon.  It all revolves around the nebulous term "coordination" contained in the state campaign finance law.

The latest so-called "smoking gun" released on Friday was an email from Walker's campaign staff telling him to encourage people to donate money to Wisconsin Club Growth.  But is that "illegal coordination" or simply the Governor and his campaign workers exercising their right to free speech?  Is recommending something to someone "coordination"?

Let's say I told everyone they should go out for lunch to Buffalo Wild Wings on Thursday because they have a special on boneless wings that day.  Am I "coordinating" a lunch trip to Buffalo Wild Wings?  No, I'm just telling you about a delicious special that you might like.  Now, if I reserved a bunch of tables at a specific time at a certain restaurant and pre-ordered X number of lunch specials--that would be considered "coordination".  Right?

And it is that level of activity that the special prosecutors in the John Doe have been trying to find--apparently without success, or someone would have been brought up on charges by now.  And it's also why Club For Growth and the other targeted groups want this whole thing brought to an immediate end--because it looks like both sides are carefully staying away from "coordinating activity" and sticking to "suggesting" that supporters help each other.

The greatest fault here lies at the feet of the lawmakers that drafted the regulations that leave so much open to interpretation.  I'm sure their only thought was "we don't want the politician's campaign and the special interest groups sitting at the same table plotting out who will raise what cash, how they will spend it and what message each radio and TV ad will contain".  If they didn't want Scott Walker to say "Feel free to give some cash to Wisconsin Club For Growth"--and Club For Growth to run ads saying "Vote for Scott Walker"--then they should have banned "suggesting" as well.  And then prepared for the onslaught of First Amendment lawsuits to follow.

Friday, August 22, 2014

For the Good of the Game

Last night in the United State Elimination Bracket Final of the Little League World Series, two predominantly African-American teams squared off in Williamsport, PA.  The team from the appropriately-named Jackie Robinson Little League of Chicago eliminated Mo'ne Davis (the break-out star of the tournament) and her team from Philadelphia 6-5.

For those of us who love the game, it was both refreshing and encouraging to not only see Black kids playing baseball--at the highest level for their ages--but to see African-American parents and older siblings and people from those metropolitan areas excited about the game.  In case you haven't noticed (and based on TV ratings, you likely haven't) the number of Black players in Major League Baseball--and at all levels of the sport--is dwindling. 

Of course, baseball was once completely devoid of African-American players--and then the aforementioned Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers and the sport--along with American culture--was forever changed.  Baseball of the 1950's, 60's and even the 70's became a much better sport--thanks in large part to the influx of Black and Latino ballplayers.  There was more speed, more power, more athleticism at every position and the game blossomed.  At one point, half of all Major League players were African-American. 

But somewhere in the mid-80's, Blacks lost interest in baseball.  Fewer top prospects came out of the cities--and urban Little League programs had to shut down from lack of interest.  Milwaukee Public Schools don't even offer baseball as a varsity sport anymore.  Now, only about 8% of MLB players are black--and the percentages in the Minors are even lower.  Some think that the Hip Hop culture's embrace of basketball (which had always been the "city game") drove more Black kids to play that sport.  Others think the long-shot dream of going right from high school to the NBA like Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James has given inner-city kids a false dream to chase that baseball (with its Minor League development system) does not provide.  And there are a lot more college football scholarships to get than there are baseball scholarships to college.

But hopefully, we can look back someday at last night's game in Williamsport and point to it as the night where African-Americans returned to baseball.  That it was the night that other kids and parents in cities across the country saw that they too could be part of a sport and a championship that perhaps they thought was "too white" or "too rich" to play.  It will be good for baseball on all levels--from the Majors down to Little League.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Non-Binding Nonsense

Despite being on "vacation" the past couple of days, I was still able to catch the Winnebago County Board meeting debate over whether to place two non-binding referenda on the November ballot.  Bleeding hearts on the Board wanted to ask people if they support raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and if they think Governor Scott Walker should take money from Washington to expand the BadgerCare program.  Both of the measures were eventually tabled--meaning they will almost certainly not appear on ballot.  But the fervor with which the Supervisors argued over the topic reminded me of people who get worked up about pre-season NFL games--it's all much ado about nothing.

Non-binding referenda are nothing more than publicly-funded surveys.  They used to be common on the local level, where wishy-washy politicians didn't know how to gauge public sentiment--so they would put issues like "Should dogs be allowed in city parks?" or "Should we build a new high school?" on the April ballot.  But now, advocacy groups are trying to use the ballot to advance their talking points with questions about the minimum wage and the Medicaid funding.

And make no doubt that these "advisory" questions will be misrepresented to the public in order to boost Democratic turnout.  In the age of the Low-Information Voter any referendum--whether it counts for anything or not--can be used to their advantage.  The accurate statement "Vote 'Yes' on November 4th to let Madison know that you think the minimum wage should be raised" will not be used in pre-election rhetoric.  Instead, the slogan will be "Vote 'Yes' November 4th to raise the minimum wage!".  It doesn't matter that a 100% 'Yes' vote will in no way affect the minimum wage--because how many voters actually know what "non-binding" means anyway?  As long as they think their vote will actually do it--that is all that counts.  Oh and while you are there, why don't you vote for Mary Burke and Mark Harris on the Democratic ticket--even though you don't know who they are.

And speaking of Mary Burke....those Supervisors pushing for the referendum questions made the argument that the Board should "give the people a voice" conveniently forget that the very issues they wanted placed on the ballot seperately are more than being addressed at the top of the ticket in the Governor's race.  Burke is very clear that she would take the Medicaid money and commit the state to all future costs for BadgerCare expansion--and Governor Walker has already declined that.  Mary Burke also supports raising the minimum wage--although she hasn't committed to the $10.10 figure just yet--while Governor Walker thinks Wisconsin should retain the national wage.  If you believe that washing dishes in a restaurant three nights a week or stocking shelves in the grocery store on weekends is worth 40% more than current rates--and if you believe that low-income health care should be paid for with the money you send to the IRS on April 15th instead of the money you send to the State Treasury on April 15th--then you can "make your voice heard clearly" by voting for Mary an election that actually counts!!

President Obama likes to say all the time that "Elections have consequences".  They must not have had a lot of non-binding referenda cluttering up the ballots when he was running for office in Illinois.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Roundabout By Any Other Name......

The City of Neenah has decided against giving their roundabouts "official names".  A citizen thought it would be easier to give directions to people if you could say "go 270-degrees through the "Screaming Eagle Roundabout'" or "go 90-degrees in the Rocket Roundabout to get to the High School."  City officials pointed out that even if they gave the roundabouts names, they still wouldn't be used in the GPS devices that everyone uses to get around nowadays.

But it got me to thinking about what names we could give to roundabouts here in Oshkosh.  Unlike Neenah, our city has decided to go with the overgrown vegetation look in most of the traffic circles--rather than sculptures or statues--so such landmarks really aren't appropriate.  Plus nearly all of our roundabouts come in multiples--so referring to two or four roundabouts in a row would actually make things more complex.  But here are some suggestions I have come up with.

The four roundabouts at Ninth Avenue and Highway 41: The Tourist Trap.  If there is anywhere in Oshkosh that you are going to be involved in a crash with one of the hundreds of thousands of visitors to Event City every year--this would be the spot.  During EAA this year, I witnessed an SUV with New Jersey plates roll right through three of the four roundabouts without yielding to traffic on the left a single time.  That was balanced out by the truck with Kentucky license plates that kept stopping in the roundabout to allow traffic to enter from the right.  Just this past Sunday afternoon, a woman in a car with Michigan plates never even slowed down to cut in front of me in the roundabout along Washburn--forcing me to lock up the brakes and blast my horn.  She flipped me off, by the way.  Apparently her illegal manuever was my fault.

The two roundabouts at Witzel and 41: The Boat Crash.  I thought about calling these roundabouts the "Wrong Way Old Farts" because I and five others have all witnessed different incidents involving elderly drivers going clockwise through the roundabouts--or driving the wrong way in circles on the cobblestone interior.  But for me, these roundabouts will forever be made famous by the crash a few years ago involving a car and a boat that I witnessed on the way back to work from lunch.  Apparently, the car knocked the boat off a trailer that was being hauled by a minivan.  It remains the only traffic crash that required investigation by both the Oshkosh Police Department and the DNR.

The four roundabouts at Highways 21 and 41: The Truckers' Nightmare.  Given the number of semis that have to navigate these roundabouts--and the caution they have to use not to crush cars turning inside of them in the other lanes--this is a fitting name for this complex.  It's also fun to see the big rigs try to get from the lane they needed to take in two roundabouts to the one they need to make a turn in the third roundabout during periods of heavy traffic.  It's amazing that Festival Foods, Menards, Lowes and the gas stations don't have everything delivered by cargo helicopter by now.

The roundabout at Jackson and Murdock: The KFC Roundabout.  This was an easy one--as the name pays homage to the Kentucky Fried Chicken that once stood at that intersection--but had to be purchased by the city and torn down to make way for the roundabout.  KFC is yet to rebuild in Oshkosh--a culinary loss that is still mourned by many.

BONUS: The intersection of Oshkosh Avenue and Sawyer Street: The One Intersection That Needs A Roundabout.  If there is one confusing and convoluted point in Oshkosh that could actually be made better by installing a roundabout this would be it.  Where else have you driven where people making a left-hand turn go behind you?  And then you have seven stoplights all within twenty feet of each other.  Of course, I'm told a roundabout can't be put there because you need the stoplights to control traffic when there is a boat going under the drawbridge and the cars all get backed up.  Figures.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Called This One Too

If you are keeping track of all the dire predictions about the Affordable Care Act that have come true you have already ticked off: " won't work", "fewer people than predicted will sign up", "rates will go up", "people will lose the plan they like", "people will lose the doctor they like", "the number of young, healthy people will not match the number of older, sicker people who sign up", "most states won't take on the cost of setting up their own exchanges", and "the employer mandate will never be enforced".  Now you have another inevitable--yet denied by every Democrat at every level of Government--prediction: "People will sign up to avoid the penalty (I mean tax for Constitutional purposes) and then just stop paying their premiums".

Investors Business Daily reports that the biggest insurers in the exchanges are seeing declining numbers of enrollees as the year goes on.  Aetna says more than 120-thousand people have stopped paying their premiums since the extended enrollment period ended.  And they fully expect the numbers to keep dropping as the year goes on--until the erosion reaches about 30% of their original enrollees.  IBD couldn't get exact numbers from other large insurers--but all did admit to declining enrollment in policies offered through the exchanges.

Industry officials are trying to paint a rosy picture--hoping that these "lost customers" got coverage through new employers or Medicaid or other private insurers.  But the more likely scenario is that these people went through and purchased a policy by paying only one month's premium just so they could check the box on their 1040 form and collect their refund aniticipation loan from Hewitt-Jackson.  And once they didn't have to worry about the IRS anymore--they dropped the coverage.  Because let's be honest, if the budget decision comes down to having health insurance or being able to buy beer and pot that month--I think we all know which is going to win out.

Insurers may as well get used to this, because this will be the pattern as long as the ACA is in effect.  Or until word gets out that President Obama has unilaterally added more and more "exemptions" to the fine (I mean tax for Constitutional purposes) for not having coverage, that hardly anybody faces it anymore--and those that do find out the IRS has no interest is actually trying to collect it--at which time all of those people whom we were told were "desperate for health care coverage" will just openly flaunt the incredibly expensive law that was meant to "save them".  And because the law says insurers can't deny coverage to anyone anymore, they will just have to accept the cost of processing these applications and putting the policies into effect for the one of two months before the "customers" stop paying again.

So back to our list of dire predictions.  Up next appears to be "Insurance companies will see losses on nearly all of the policies offered in the exchanges and will either jack up premiums next year--or get out of offering them altogether". 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Celebrating Dependence

Later today a liberal "senior advocacy group" will be holding a "Birthday Party for Social Security" in Green Bay.  It was 79-years ago today that President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law the Social Security Act--and this group wants to "celebrate" the success of that program. 

One of the things they plan to "celebrate" is that "Social Security has helped to reduce poverty!"  They point to the fact that when SSI went into effect, more than 50% of US seniors lived in poverty and that rate is now about 10%.  That sounds impressive--until you recall that Social Security started in the throes of the pre-World War II depression when poverty rates across all age groups was much higher than it has been in the post-World War II economic boom.  As us Supply Siders like to say "A rising tide floats all boats."

They also will likely "celebrate" how Social Security "provides seniors with a sense of security about their retirement".  I'm guessing they won't be showing video footage of Congress debating cost of living adjustments every year.  I also doubt they will be discussing the projected income to outflow in the Trust Fund over the next five years--which according to the 2014 report from the SSA is NEGATIVE 77-BILLION DOLLARS!  And I can flat out guarantee that there will be little celebration of the fact that automatic withdrawals would have to increase by 7% per working American to fill in that deficit.

I am sure that there will be much "celebration" of the steady income Social Security has provided to retirees who "otherwise would have had nothing to live on in their Golden Years."  The average SSI payment is just over 12-hundred dollars a month per person--meaning a married couple who retire at 65 and live another 25-years can expect to get (with average cost of living adjustments of 2%) about $825,000.  That is a pretty good little "nest egg" isn't it?  But I took what my wife and I pay annually in SSI withholdings from our paychecks--a combined $4239--and figured out how much we would have if that money had instead gone into a Roth IRA every couple of weeks during our 40-year working careers and earned the S&P 500 average return since 1926: 11.69%.  That money going to Social Security would have earned my wife and me $2,983,832.81 by the time we were 65.  Yes, that is correct, by investing instead of relying on the Government to fund my retirement, my family would have an extra 2.1 MILLION DOLLARS!!!

Maybe we should go to the big Social Security Birthday Party with a cake that has 2.1 million candles on it to drive home the point about what you give up through government dependence. Although, having 2.1 million burning dollar bills on the cake would actually be a better representation.  Anyway, I think I'll pass on crashing the SSI party and use that time to instead double-check my math on the $1.1 MILLION I could have in my Health Savings Account if I hadn't had to pay into Medicare and Medicaid my entire life......

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Garbage In, Garbage Out

It might be time to reassess how we deliver election night coverage.  In yet another vote, what appeared to be a victory for one candidate at the end of election night, has turned out to possibly be a different result this morning.  The latest case involves the Republican primary in the 6th Congressional District where the Associated Press declared State Senator Glenn Grothman the winner at 11:00 last night.  OK, we here at the Radio Ranch go with that (since the AP is our "trusted" statewide news source) talk with Grothman about the win and set up an interview with Bob Burnell this morning to discuss the race against Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris.  Everybody goes to bed satisfied with what has happened

But then, at 2:30 this morning, we find out that the Sheboygan County Clerk has issued completely different vote totals that had been posted all night.  Some sort of computer glitch was causing State Senator Joe Liebham's vote totals to be under-reported.  Sheboygan County just happens to be Liebham's home base and the source of his greatest support in the primary race.  All of a sudden, the easy victory that was declared for Grothman is a razor thin margin of just 215-votes--with a few precincts still to report.

This comes after the infamous "bags of ballots" that "we forgot to count" in Waukesha County a few years ago--which turned around a State Supreme Court race in favor of the "Conservative" candidate--and the tearful press conference from the Clerk trying to explain how that happened.  That of course was followed by a statewide recount and lawsuits.

And that was preceded by an overnight reversal in an Oshkosh School Board race about 10-years ago--where we got "all precincts reporting" and interviewed who we were told was the "winner"--only to find out the next morning that there were "copied ballots in the Town of Algoma" that hadn't been hand-counted yet--leading to a new winner actually getting the seat.

And then there was the debacle of 2000--when Al Gore was declared winner of the Florida election--only to have everyone backtrack on that--followed by hanging chads, "count all the votes" protests and multiple lawsuits.

Obviously, we don't want to go back to the days when newspapers ruled the media world and you waited two days to find out who won an election.  And we don't want to renew the errors of the Voter News Service days, when winners were declared moments after (and sometimes before) polls closed based solely on exit polls and results from certain "targeted districts".  But there has to be someway to provide more accurate election night coverage than what is being provided now.  What I can't understand is that computers count the ballots--and then report the results to computers in clerk's offices.  So why aren't those numbers matching up?  Banks seem to have no problem keeping our balances correct.  The Monopoly Chance card with "Bank Error in your favor--collect 200-dollars" is considered quaint today because that really never happens anymore.  Yet, every election cycle, we send you the listener to bed with one declared winner--and a "hold the phone" re-write the next morning.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Out of Bounds

"There are deaths all the time in racin', at small tracks like that, it's just part of the sport". 

That was a quote Dale Earnhardt, Jr gave to a television crew before Sunday's NASCAR race at Watkins Glen about his thoughts on a fatal incident the night before involving fellow driver Tony Stewart.  Stewart was involved in a crash with one of the local drivers on the dirt track--Joe Ward, Jr.  Ward got out of his car after the crash and--has become a racing tradition--was going to shake his fist at Stewart, whom he believed to have done him wrong in causing the crash.  Unfortunately, Stewart ended up hitting Ward with his car and killing him.

In what could have been a major PR disaster--and a huge black eye for the sport in general--Stewart still planned to race Sunday at the Glen--despite being the subject of a police investigation.  His crew chief Greg Zipadelli even went so far as to tell the press "It's business as usual"--until Stewart "decided" not to race a few hours before the event.  I use the flying quotes there because I am sure that NASCAR leaned heavily on Stewart to sit this one out--despite desperately needing the points to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Both of the comments made yesterday by Earnhardt and Zipadelli show just how callous racers are (and you could say have to be) about dying during competition.  Dale, Jr's dad was famously killed on the last lap of the Daytona 500 (some would say blocking for his son and the driver of his own team, Michael Waltrip).  But the Stewart case is a bit different.  This wasn't two cars collide and one hits the wall and a bad angle.  This happened under caution, Ward was not in his vehicle at the time and Stewart was not "jockeying for position".

So what we are left with is the sticky legal question of what constitutes "a sports incident" and what constitutes a "criminal action"?  Video of the scene is a little dark and grainy--but it appears that Stewart guns it at the moment before impact with Ward--maybe hoping to kick up a little dirt in Ward's face to show him who the "real star" was.  Stewart supporters immediately got onto social media to defend their guy saying sprint cars are set up to jump to the right when you hit the gas in order to slide through the dirt corners--and that is why Ward got hit.  Others coldly said Ward had it coming for running into traffic to throw his little hissy fit.  Now it will be up to prosecutors to decide if Stewart was acting negligently or recklessly in the seconds before hitting Ward.

There is precedent for criminal charges against athletes for their actions on the field.  Dale Hunter of the Washington Capitals was charged with assault for an unprovoked hit that seriously injured a player in New Jersey back in the 1990's.  Canadian courts have also convicted hockey players for sucker punches on the ice.  Now we are going to find out what is and isn't "in bounds" when it comes to "sending a message on the track". 

Friday, August 8, 2014

When Reality Bursts Your Bubble

Is there anything better than when reality doesn't fit the narrative put forth by liberals? 

Take for instance the constant claims that "a college education is becoming too expensive for students and families to afford".  That line is used every time somebody wants more taxpayer dollars to go to state college systems, grant programs and to allow past student loan borrowers to default on their obligations.  But how then do you explain UW-Madison getting a record number of freshman applications this year?  Shouldn't the exact opposite thing be happening?  Shouldn't students and families be so discouraged by the cost of college that they decide to forego it--or put it off until they can save up more cash?

And these record applications are to the most expensive school in the entire UW System.  I've detailed before the tens of thousands of dollars students and families could save by going to one of the two-year campuses--commuting from home--taking the same general ed requirements that you would need to take in Madison.  But these freshman want to start paying the most right from day one.

What the application record shows is that if someone values something enough--in this case, a degree from one of the best universities on the planet--they will find a way to pay for it themselves.  Which brings us to another topic where reality is not quite living up to the narrative of the Left: health insurance.

Remember the key component of the Affordable Care Act that A--made it constitutional and B--was going to help fund the thing--the penalty for failure to buy health insurance?  Well it turns out that the 30-million people who remain uninsured (which I swear is the same number of uninsured that existed before the ACA) won't actually have to pay that penalty.  The Wall Street Journal reports that 90% of those violating "the law of the land" will face no penalties this year, or next year or the year after that.  In an ironic twist, that is the direct result of President Obama acting unilaterally to change the law Congress approved.

The really bad news about the lack of punishment for non-compliance with the law is that it allows more of the "young healthy people" who were needed to balance out the increase in "old sick people" being covered by private insurers to stay out of the pool--thereby creating the "Death Spiral" that us Conservatives predicted from day one.  It also robs the Federal Government of an estimated 3-BILLION dollars that were supposed to be used to help offset the cost of the subsidies provided to the 4-million people that actually did gain new coverage.  And all of this is based, of course, on the IRS actually tracking down the 10% scofflaws and getting them to pay the penalty.  And we all know what kind of track record that agency has when it comes to people who are actually breaking the law--not just criticizing the Obama Administration.

Well, enough reality for today.  I'll let you get back to your little fantasy worlds again.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Same Is Not Better

A new poll finds Americans' confidence in the future has reached it's lowest level since such polling began.  Fewer than one in four Americans believe that their children's generation will have a better life than they have.  Accelerating a decline that started back in the 1990's.

The authors of the survey are trying to spin as a statement on the hype surrounding "income inequality"--saying Americans have lost the hope that hard work will help them get ahead.  In the same article, President Obama is quoted in a fundraising speech last month as saying that doubt stems from concern over the "New World Order"--and that confidence will be restored when his "new economy" is put into place.

But what everyone is failing to realize is that the low poll numbers are the result of years and generations of not aiming for individual and economic improvement--but rather trying to make everyone "the same".  It is the stated goal of President Obama and his allies on the Left to make sure that everyone has the same health insurance, the same education, the same housing situations, the same eco-friendly-healthy foods to eat, the same salaries, the same vehicles, all with the same attitudes and the same opinions about everyone else in the country.

In the immediate future, that means those living above the "same-ness" targets are looking at having that lifestyle cut back (through increased taxation and regulation)--so why would they be confident about the future?  I'd be willing to bet the 24% who are confident about the future are those who might get the boost being promised to them by the Left in coming years (without considering the limitations reliance on the Government places on your future).

And the closer you come to this "same-ness", where does any further improvement come from?  Do you think those living in the European Social Democracies that President Obama wants to model our country after are any more optimistic about the future?  Their governments have already decided what their futures are going to be like--and the possibilities aren't nearly as limitless as they are here in the "in-equal" U-S-of-A.

If anything, this new poll should be seen as a positive for those who believe in a free-market, individualistic America again.  Because 76% of us see where we are going as a country--and we don't like it.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Down by the River

The City of Oshkosh is launching a series of community input sessions tonight about what people want to see along the Fox River corridor in the future.  City Manager Mark Rohloff is encouraging attendees to "dream big" in order to help City Hall develop long-range plans for all of that waterfront property.  I, however, would prefer to think small.

Rather than regurgitate the same concepts every other city along the Fox (or any body of water nowadays) is proposing: Mixed-use, condo/senior living/retail/entertainment mini-towers with all the same exterior colors and big glass windows--why don't we get back to letting people build houses along the water.  I'm talking about large, single-family homes ("mansions" if you want to call them that) with landscaped yards, trees and actual character.

The benefits of single-family homes along the river are numerous.  Until Christopher Dodd and Barney Frank started insisting that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac give home loans to anyone with a pulse--regardless of income or ability to pay--private home ownership was the most stable form of real estate in the country.  Upscale residential owners also tend to pay their property taxes--on time.  Families stay in those homes for decades--not just a few years on a lease--giving greater permanence and continuity to the area.  And up-scale homes tend not to fall into disrepair or become eyesores.

What's more, private residential development doesn't rely on grants from Housing and Urban Development or tax credits from Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Administration to get built.  The city doesn't have to create Tax Incremental Financing districts to pay for major infrastructure improvements.  And there is no need to build giant seawalls at taxpayers' expense. 

I'll grant you that building private homes on the river won't give local politicians a chance to show up at formal ribbon cutting ceremonies or brag to their buddies about how they "approved the borrowing to make that building happen"--but it will give the Fox River in Oshkosh a different look than all of our neighboring cities--who just can't seem to build enough mixed-use, condo/senior living/retail/entertainment mini-towers that those attending "visioning sessions" fifty years from now will be wondering why we ever built in the first place.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Humanity Over Fear

The decision to bring two Americans infected with Ebola back to the US for treatment has sparked a lot of debate and triggered fear among some who think the virus is certain to break containment and lead to an epidemic in this country.  Personally, I think those who believe in this doomsday scenario have seen too many movies like The Andromeda Strain, The Omega Man and Outbreak.  They probably have found a website that show "how Ebola will spread from just one victim to the entire nation in 72 hours"--with a single red dot expanding to cover the whole US like they show in all of the aforementioned movies.

While viruses certainly pose a greater threat to mankind than global warming and income inequality, that doesn't mean those suffering from potential "super bugs" should be shunned by the rest of the world like lepers of old.  Many of the same people who are decrying the decision to bring the two American patients back here for the best treatment they could possibly get are the same people who cheer the loudest for US soldiers who are honored for their bravery in battle.  The military has a core belief: "Leave no one behind"--and countless Congressional Medal of Honor and Bronze Star winners have earned those awards for their efforts in doing just that. 

And that is exactly what the doctors at Emery University Hospital are doing here--leaving no fellow American behind.  If the Ebola is to spread--despite the great caution with which these patients are being handled--those doctors and nurses will be the first to be infected.  And let's not forget, the two patients are infected themselves because they volunteered to go to West Africa and to try and fight the virus in the field--before an infected person gets onto a commerical flight and brings it to the US without anyone knowing.

Besides, the only way we are going to figure out how to kill this virus is by studying it up-close in our own labs--not in some make-shift facility in a third-world country because we fear a potential accidental release from a research lab over here.  From the very small risk that we are taking on, there is the potential for a great discovery that will benefit billions.  I for one believe that is worth the risk.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Escaping Scrutiny....For Now

You can find pretty much anything at EAA Airventure if you look hard enough.  But one thing that is missing--which surprises me--is protesters.  One would think that an event that draws an estimated half-million people to a fairly concentrated area would be ripe for protest from any number of groups on the left.

To environmentalists, Airventure must be an ecological "disaster".  Ten-thousand aircraft--most of which are carrying just one or two people--traveling hundreds and thousands of miles burning up millions of gallons of aviation fuel.  Radial engines leaking motor oil all over the place.  Warbirds with no exhaust controls filling the air with fumes.  And six F-16 fighters burning through jet fuel just to put on a show for people.  It's enough to bring a Green Party member to tears just thinking about it.

The "economic disparity" crowd should also hate Airventure.  Flying is a very expensive hobby--meaning only the "economically advantaged" can afford to do it.  And now Wisconsin is offering tax breaks on the purchase of airplane parts and service in the state--meaning "less tax revenue for public education".  I was surprised that the Thunderbirds weren't greeted at the the Wittman terminal last week with signs reading "Feed the children of 14-year old high school dropouts who decided to have unprotected sex--not fighter jets!"

The cultural diversity gang could also get into the act in Oshkosh as well.  Just eight percent of private pilots are women.  The number of racial minorities in the industry is even smaller.  The crowds and performers at Airventure resemble that of hockey, NASCAR or golf--other sports criticized for their racial makeup all the time.  And let's not forget the "culturally insenstive" practice of naming aircraft "Cherokees", "Apaches" and "Blackhawks".

Perhaps the protesters assume that the government will take care of all the issue they have with Airventure and private aviation.  There can always be increases in aviation fuel taxes.  The EPA can place new restrictions on pollution controls and fuel efficiency ratings that will rob engines of the power needed to safely operate some aircraft.  There are always user fees that could be imposed to make the important tasks of taking off and landing more expensive at public airports.  And major events like Airventure could be made to purchase Carbon Credit offsets to make up for the "wasted energy" that comes with all of those planes flying there--and all of the cars driving to the grounds as well.

Maybe one day we will see the protesters lining up along Poborezny Drive demanding the EAA cowtow to their beliefs.  It would certainly give us in the media something new to talk about out there.