Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Couple of Minutes of Zen

During last Saturday's Badgers game at Camp Randall Stadium, there was a play that saw quarterback Tanner McEvoy flushed out of the pocket and forced to scramble.  As McAvoy turned the corner, one of his receivers held a defender drawing a flag.  Then as McAvoy went out of bounds, he was hit by a defender--too late in the judgement of the side judge (a bad call by the way).  Because that same official had already thrown his flag for the holding penalty, he had to throw his hat in the air to signify that he was also calling a late hit out of bounds.

The play made me smile--not because the Badgers were going to get an automatic first down on the dead-ball penalty--but rather because I could imagine what John Madden would have had to say about the play if he was doing the game.  Most younger people know John Madden as the "Guy with the awesome football video game" or as the bumbling idiot that comedian Frank Caliendo portrays him to be in his impersonation.  But back in the day, Madden and his play-by-play man, Pat Summerall were actually entertaining.

Here's how I think that play would have gone if Pat and John were calling the Badger game:

Madden--Uh-oh, the official threw his hat!

Summerall--I think we're going to get a late hit penalty here.

Madden (as a replay of the play airs on the screen)--"Yeah, you see the official calls holding on the wide receiver as the quarterback runs past and throws his flag right here--but then the quarterback gets to the sideline and he's going out right here but then BOOM he gets hit by the linebacker too late and the official has to throw his hat because he already threw his flag and he doesn't have anything else to throw there.  It's a good thing there wasn't another penalty on the play or he probably would have had to throw something else--like his shoe. Ha ha ha."  (All the while furiously marking up the Telestrator with circles and arrows around the flag, the hat and the ref's shoe.)

Summerall--"He would have thrown his shoe?

Madden--"Yeah, cuz he wouldn't have had anything else that wasn't, you know, attached.  So he would have had to throw his shoe.  And you never want a ref to throw his shoe because you know it's going to be a fifteen yard penalty.  A ref will never throw his shoe for a false start or a holding penalty--it's always going to be for, like, a late hit out of bounds or unnecessary roughness or something like that."

Summerall--"Did you ever have an official throw a shoe on you?"

Madden--"No. But I think Lyle Alzado once tackled a guy and took off the guy's shoe and threw it off the field so he couldn't be in on the next play.  But Lyle Alzado was crazy."

Summerall--"On first and ten the give is to Gordon for six."

I miss that kind of "analysis".  It's better than breaking down the "double cross, backside stunt blitz" and the "poor pursuit angle" that today's color guys think they have to use to prove they are "football geniuses".

Monday, September 29, 2014


Remember when the Obama Administration rolled out that ad in 2008 featuring "Julia", the fictional woman who never needed parents or a husband because "The Government" was there at every stage of her life to provide her with her every need?  Apparently, a growing number of women (and men) are saying "Hey, that sounds pretty good to me!  I want to be like Julia too!"  That's because getting married is going the way of removing your hat when you are indoors and eating dinner at a table with the rest of your family as traditions fewer people are following nowadays.  A report over the weekend in the Washington Post cites census data showing the number of people over the age of 25 who have never married has grown from just 10% in 1960 to more than 20% last year.  And that is expected to grow to 25% over the next two decades.

The article quotes several people who have absolutely no interest in marrying. Among them are a couple who have kids together, have lived together for years but just don't want to make the "official" commitment to each other.  That lack of commitment really shouldn't come as a surprise in a culture where the main selling point of new cellphones is that the carrier will pay off the penalty for early termination of your previous wireless contract that you signed less than two years ago.  Marriage is not easy.  It takes hard work sometimes to get through some situations as a couple.  And breaking up that union is costly and complicated--so you tend to make a better effort to fix what is wrong.  But if there are no "legal" ties binding you--quitting when the going gets tough is a whole lot easier.  The only complicating factor might be who needs to move out of the apartment and who gets to keep the dog and the cat.

One thing that the report misses out on, however, is the role that the growth of Big Government and the increasing dependency on its programs have had in reducing the "need" to get married.  No longer are two low-income people better off marrying and combining their assets when all that does is put your eligibility for food stamps, WIC, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and housing subsidies in jeopardy.  The only welfare fraud cases that I can remember reporting on in my 16-years in the business are single mothers who failed to report that they were living with guys who were bringing in income above the eligibility limits.

Having a mother and a dad in the home used to be the only way to raise a child.  But with government subsidized day care, Early Childhood, 4-year old kindergarten, all-day kindergarten, before school programs and after school programs, who needs to have parents around to watch their kids?  And the financial security later in age created by having two long-term, shared incomes is replaced by Social Security, subsidized senior living and Medicare.

If this keeps up--and Big Government grows from the "Nanny State" to the "Spousal State"--same sex couples might be the only Americans getting married in the future.

Friday, September 26, 2014

My Biennial Obsession

If I seem a bit distracted this morning it's because my biennial obsession--the Ryder Cup--is underway already this morning in Scotland.  I live and breathe the Ryder Cup.  It has everything that I love in golf: The United States versus Europe--so you've got that jingoistic angle going...it's match play--the best way to play golf--just you versus your opponent, par doesn't matter...and it has Foursomes--or alternate shot format--which is completely foreign to most Americans, but is a fast, frustrating and fun way to play.

I started looking forward to this edition of the Ryder Cup about two minutes after leaving the 2012 Ryder cup at Medinah outside of Chicago.  You may recall, the US blew a huge 10-4 lead on Saturday afternoon to lose 14 1/2 to 13 1/2.  I looked back on My Two Cents from the Monday after the Meltdown at Medinah and wow, was I an angry man.  I hoped that perennial losers like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker would never make another Ryder Cup team again.

Well here we are two years along and I got half of my wish granted.  Tiger is not on the team due to his back injury--and horrible play most of the year--and Steve Stricker is just an Assistant Captain.  Phil and Furyk are back which causes me some concern.  But like the eternal optimist, I still have a good feeling about this year's American team.  There is a new wave of young players at Gleneagles.  Young players who don't have the scars of getting drubbed by the Euros in six of the last eight matches.  Guys like Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed--who play aggressive fearless golf and fit perfectly with match play golf.  And what's more, they want to win.  They've got the fire inside--the fire that so many of us US fans have as well--and are so frustrated not to see in the previous generation of players who have let us down so often.
And sure enough, Spieth and Reed are dominating in their Fourball match already this morning--while the Ryder Cup washouts Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson are getting their butts handed to them--again. 

So I will be up at 2:00 am again tomorrow and about 4:00 on Sunday--jacked up without any coffee necessary--to watch the Red, White and Blue try to shut up the chanting and singing of the equally passionate Euro fans.  And if I get disappointed again Sunday afternoon, it's just one-year, 11-months, 27-days, 15-hours, 29-minutes and 30-seconds until the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine in the Twin Cities.  I'm already looking forward to being there.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

No Real Allies

While President Obama heralds the five Arab countries that are taking part in the air strikes against ISIS (or ISIL as the President insists on calling them) he has to know in the back of his mind that we are going into this fight with no real backup.  The only reason those countries are on-board with the effort is because they are Shia Muslims--and ISIS are Sunni Muslims.  And the two sides see each other as almost as great a threat to their power in the region as they do the United States.  Right now, the use of our military might helps the Shias keep the Sunnis "in their place".

The original plan in Iraq was to leave behind a fledgling democracy with Shias, Sunnis and the Christian Kurds all sharing power under a model of "seperation of church and state" that has made democracy in the US such a success.  But that concept is--and likely always will remain--a foreign idea and an impossible goal in the Arab world.  When the Founding Fathers gathered in Philadelphia, Ben Franklin's cousin's brother's cousin hadn't killed Thomas Jefferson's mother's brother's son sparking a blood feud between the families that could only be satisfied by more killing.  And there weren't any fanatics at Independence Hall demanding that all of the Jews be driven off of the North American continent--or who wanted all of the Lutherans to be kept in a lower social status than the rest of the Protestants.

To get a true understanding of the situation in which we have been dragged (both on the humanitarian and the economic front) check out an article from Politico.com this week by Hisham Melhem entitled "The Barbarians Within Our Gates".  It details in painful reality the absolute collapse of Arab culture and politics into a doomed religious battle that pre-dates "American interference" in the region.  It also shows the fallacy of those who demand that the US have a "clear exit strategy" before comitting any additional forces to the fight against ISIS or Al Qaeda or the suddenly-deadly Khorasan group.  We will likely be there for an extended period of time--veering back and forth between the religious sects depending on who is committing the greater humanitarian atrocities that year--and who might send their suicide bombers to this country first.

History has shown it's a lot easier to bomb political beliefs out of people than it is their religious beliefs.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Power of Pot

One of the "selling points" that proponents of legalized, recreational marijuana use like to trumpet is that it "isn't addictive like harder drugs"--usually meaning cocaine or heroin.  Well if it isn't addictive, please explain to me the life choices people are making just so that they can continue to get high.

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon is currently on the sidelines for the first ten games of the season because he violated the NFL Substance Abuse policy for about the fifth time.  The suspension was handed down after Gordon tested positive for marijuana use--again.  It will cost him $800,000 in salary and the stats his agent could use to parlay his next contract into a major payday (Gordon led the league in receiving in 2013).  All of that down the drain just to smoke pot.

At least Gordon still wants to try and balance his career with his desire to get baked.  Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL player Ricky Williams flat out walked away from the sport (and a huge contract) because he too wanted to smoke pot--without fear of drug testing.  He tried to comeback a year later--but by that time, teams and coaches had to wonder about his level of commitment.

Guys I play basketball and golf with work in several fields of industry and they tell me all the time that one of the biggest hurdles they face in filling available positions is that so many people can't pass simple drug tests--usually coming up positive for pot.  And these are applicants who are warned that they will be peeing in a cup--and what day said testing will take place--and they still can't lay off the joints long enough to land a steady job.

And our latest example comes from an Alaska TV station last week, where reporter Charlo Green first outed herself as the owner of a medicinal marijuana business and then quit her job on the air by saying "eff it" and walking off.  Her reason for this incredibly unprofessional and juvenile stunt?  She wants to commit herself to the legalized use of weed.  I'm sure her act of stupidity will rally many pot-heads to her cause--but as for those who aren't under the magical spell the magic herb will see it for what it is--yet another example of the power pot has over its clueless users.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Power of One

We hear a lot today how the "power of the individual" has been eroded in American society--about how "big corporations and special interests" run everything.  But the friends of a drunk driving victim in Sun Prairie are finding out that one person can still wield a great deal of power.  More 29-hundred people have now signed an on-line petition demanding that the DOT allow a memorial to the woman (who was run over while jogging) to remain near the spot where she was killed.  The Department has ordered its removal because one person complained--and their policy is to remove such memorials from the public right of way if just one person complains.  (The irony here is that the policy was adopted to avoid lawsuits from atheists over having those white crosses on public property.  But in this case, the complainer was likely a friend of the drunk driver--who just happened to be a Lutheran Bishop.)

But that being in Dane County, I wonder how many of those signing the petition to save the memorial and who are upset that one person can be responsible for its removal supported the State's policy under Governor Jim Doyle giving the Department of Public Instruction the power to order school districts to drop high school mascots like Indians, Braves, Warriors, Chiefs and Black Hawks if just one person filed a complaint.  And it didn't even have to be one person who actually lives in the school district.  It could have been a person who doesn't even live in Wisconsin--but is making a career out of forcing schools to drop their mascots.

One person--with public policy on their side--can dictate many things to the majority in today's society.  Think of the one child with peanut, or gluten, or fruit allergies that causes schools to adopt "no birthday treats" policies--for fear of "embarrassing" someone who may not be able to eat the treat.  Or the hundreds of thousands of dollars that school districts must spend--by law--to accomodate special needs students whose parents want them "mainstreamed" and not grouped with other students of similar disability at a central location in the district.

Our currency features the Latin phrase "E pluribus unum"--meaning "From many, one".  Perhaps we should consider changing it to fit our modern "nobody can be offended or excluded at any cost" society to "Positus in multis" or "One controls the many".

Monday, September 22, 2014

Cut and Paste Politics

Everyone can stop with the manufactured outrage that Mary Burke's job plan was basically copied from platforms put forth by other Democratic candidates across the country in the past.  Was anyone really expecting new ideas from a politician in this day and age?  And was there anyone who thought that Mary Burke spent a couple of days hammering out a thirty-plus page document on Macro-economics?  Here's what most likely happened:

A group of Burke campaign and Democratic party staffers were probably on a conference call one day when someone said "If we're going to attack Scott Walker on job creation, we should probably have a jobs plan of our own."  To which someone else replied, "Great idea, but all of us have only ever worked in the public sector, so how do you actually create jobs?"  And then someone else said "Like we've always proposed: with lots of new government programs and spending."  And then somebody said "Well, we should probably promise more money for education so that the teachers unions and the college faculty get on board with it."  And then another person said, "And we should propose a bunch of street and bridge projects so the public works unions support it."  And someone else said, "Don't forget renewable energy projects so the environmental groups get all excited."  And then somebody suggested, "And let's talk about providing a bunch of grants for urban renewal so the black leaders think they are getting something too!"

After a few minutes of backslapping and self-congratulating on what a great jobs plan they had just developed, somebody had to ask "Okay, so who's going to write this all up?"  To which one of the Democratic Party folks said, "Don't worry, I know this guy--Eric Schnurer--who has written a bunch of jobs plans for other candidates around the country.  He can just substitute "Wisconsin" for the names of the other state's plans and we'll be good to go."

So Mr Schnurer cuts and pastes the "Mary Burke Invest for Sucess" plan together and emails it back to the Campaign folks--who give in the cursory once over and release it to the press.  Mr. Schnurer even provides a talking points summary page for the candidate to memorize and it's time to go out and give speeches about how "I have developed a plan to create jobs."  It's all as original as "I plan to fix the state's problems by raising taxes on the rich."  When is someone going to be accused of plagiarism for that?

Friday, September 19, 2014

We Don't Need No Edumuhcation

A new poll finds just 44% of Americans rate getting a college education as "very important" in life.  That is down from 75% in the same poll just four years ago.  So what happened in the space of a single presidential term to turn so many people off to the importance of higher education?

I suspect, that this year's poll may have hit a few more Americans who are sitting at home with a degree--but no job.  And it's likely a degree that they borrowed a lot of money to get--and are now having to pay back with money they are not earning in their field of study.  Or maybe the pollsters contacted a lot of parents who currently have college graduates back in the house with them because it turns out that there was not a lot of demand for Tibetan Monk Sand Artists--or it turned out that marketing degree is only good for a bunch of commission sales jobs and "things just aren't good in sales right now".

Or maybe, the poll contacted more Americans who are working in their fields of study--but are finding people without degrees--but greater inter-personal skills or technical knowledge are making more than them--or are their bosses.  They are probably wondering how that could happen--since we've been told for years that people with a BS or a BA will make "a million dollars more over their careers than those without a college degree".  So when is the "extra million" going to start rolling in?

If anything, the poll should serve as a wakeup call to those in higher education to look at whether they are delivering a good value for the product they provide.  I know they bristle at the use of the term "product".  "We provide education Mr. Krause.  We don't make widgets on an assembly line.  And please note that it's DOCTOR--not mister.  I didn't go to school for 12-years myself to be called Mister."  I'm sure every employer in the room rolls his eyes when he hears a school administrator say their goal is to "produce global citizens who are looking to take action to improve their communities and their planet"--when all the boss is looking for is someone who understands that ten minutes early is actually "on time" and who can do some math in his or her head--as opposed to needing to use the calculator function on their smartphone.

UW System President Ray Cross outlined his plan to "completely overhaul" the universities to meet the needs of employers in the 21st Century.  As this new poll shows, that is probably something that everyone in education should have done about 20-years ago.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Quick Hits

---Here's a bold prediction: Reid Municipal Golf Course in Appleton will be closed within ten years.  The city is setting the facility on a death spiral by eliminating the pro position at the course this week.  Aldermen saw revenue potential in ending the deal with the current pro that included a share of the money generated by cart rentals, concessions and the driving range.  The only problem is that now the city will have to pick up the costs for all of that stuff (which the pro had been covering).  What's more, the new positions of Golf Superintendent and Clubhouse Manager will likely be filled with people far less passionate about the game than Stacey Gassner has been for the past decade.  We can debate the merits of municipal golf courses, but if you are going to have one (and sink a bunch of money into using the property as a stormwater detention basin as well) you may as well run it correctly.

--Residents of Scotland are going to the polls today to decide whether or not to commit political and economic suicide.  A national referendum on independence could see the country break away from the United Kingdom.  Studies have shown that Scots pay more than English residents in taxes (and get less in the way of government programs in return)--so you can see why they might want to go their own way.  But those pushing for independence are making the fatal mistake of keeping the British Pound as their currency.  Even super-Liberal, Keynsian economist Paul Krugman agrees that is idiotic--since you would be an independent country that doesn't control its own money supply.  That's the same recipe for disaster that nearly all of the countries in the European Union have learned the hard way--especially those that thought they could continue their outrageously-generous welfare programs with cash taken from more fiscally-responsible countries.

---Governor Scott Walker wants to drug test welfare recipients--and deny benefits to those who are using.  I know this is a popular campaign promise with the hard-core base of the GOP--but it really doesn't provide that much public benefit.  Florida passed a similar law and found just a handful of those on the dole were using drugs.  In fact, the cost of testing so many people actually exceeded the savings to taxpayers.  What's more, I don't think it's fair to punish children who may rely on benefits to eat or to stay in an apartment just because their parents are losers and idiots.

---Finally, I went to see The Book of Mormon at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center last night.  While the show is about an hour too long, I did enjoy that nearly everybody could be offended by the content.  That's probably why I was laughing the hardest and most often of everyone in the theater--especially during the "Hasa Diga Eebowai" song.  I was this close to buying the t-shirt with that saying on it--but couldn't justify the $35 cost to make almost everybody who would ask about it mad.  If you don't like thinking for yourself--I'd recommend passing on this one.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I"M OUTRAGED!!!....Now Back to the Game

The NFL is in crisis.  You know how I know that?  All three of the network news anchors said so last night: "The NFL continues to deal with its domestic violence crisis" was the lead in nearly every story about the suspension, re-instatement and subsequent re-suspension of Viking running back Adrian Peterson for whipping one of his reported seven children and for stories on the players union appeal of Ray Rice's two-game--after further review make that indefinite--suspension for punching out his wife.  EPSN and the cable news channels are devoting entire hours to discussing the "crisis" the league faces and how this is almost certainly going to drive away fans--and more importantly--sponsors.

And then the latest Nielsen Television Ratings come out this morning and all 6 of the highest rated--and 8 of the top 10 shows last week--were all NFL-related.  Yes, that is how outraged America was--that only 80% of the most popular shows on TV had to do with football.  And remember, Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice didn't play in any of those games--so it's not like there was the possibility of seeing a "train wreck" live on TV that drew people to the tube for those contests.

While Commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners that employ him may not enjoy having the media relations people of every domestic violence, child abuse prevention and women's rights group getting countless hours of airtime calling for their heads--you know they sleep easier at night knowing that the American public couldn't care less.  If fans did find the conduct of the players so repugnant, they wouldn't tune in.  They wouldn't spend their eight hours a week on the computer checking out the team and league websites for injury updates so they can set their fantasy football rosters by the Thursday afternoon deadline.  And they wouldn't spend an average of 600-dollars per family of four to fill nearly all of the stadiums last Sunday either.

And if you think sponsors are going to run away in droves because they "don't want to be associated with such behavior" think again.  You know the marketing people at every one of the companies that ran ads last week--or are thinking about running ads during future games--sees those ratings numbers as well and is working on a rationale for getting their message in front of all those eyeballs in a format that people still watch live and don't fast-forward through the commercials.

I'll believe people are "outraged" by the "crisis in the NFL" when their stadiums are empty--and their ratings are lower than than Rachel Maddow's.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

There's No Debate

I must say I was very disappointed by the Congressional candidates "debate" hosted by the Fond du Lac Rotary Club on Monday.  In a race where it appears only two such forums are going to be held, the format did nothing to actually advance the public's understanding of the positions held by the two candidates (listed in alphabetical order) State Senator Glenn Grothman and Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris.

Before I get into the debate itself, let me tell you about the controversy that preceded it. Our friend Emily Matesic of Action Two News arrived with her videographer to film the debate for use in a story later that day.  She was told--in no uncertain terms--that no cameras were allowed in the room (except for some podcasting that a Fond du Lac radio station was doing) at the request of one of the candidates.  (Given that there is one candidate in this race that is desperate for all of the media attention he can get to make up for lack of fundraising to buy advertising--I'll leave it up to you to determine which candidate may not have wanted the TV crews to show up).  It was only after a couple of Milwaukee TV stations and Wisconsin Public Television showed up that the Rotary President aquiesced and allowed them to record the debate.  Chalk up another win for the First Amendment!!

Now to the debate itself.  It was my absolute least-favorite format: Three minute "opening statements", take turns answering questions with a two minute time limit, no rebuttal and then three minute closing statements.  In that format all you end up with is "I'll say my main talking points--you say your main talking points and then we will move on to the next question".  It's a style of "debate" that doesn't actually feature any "debating".  You may as well have had two Rotary members themselves reading prepared statements from each of the candidates and it would have been just as enlightening.

I realize that the art of inter-personal communication is dying and someday such debates will be held via text messages on some smartphone and tablet app--but at least force the candidates to defend their positions and provide some insight into the thought process and rationale for holding those beliefs!  I know the fear of forum hosts is that if you have a real "open debate" that it might allow one candidate to speak for three-minutes and 28-seconds more than the other and that will lead to the "less spoken" candidate's supporters to claim bias and favortism--but clear, concise arguments are usually more effective than hogging all of the mic time anyway.

But how can we expect to break out of the cycle of low-information voters if we refuse to give them more information with which to make their decision?

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Rush After Judgement

Remember this spring when that Federal Judge struck down the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriages?  Do you recall how some county clerks immediately started to issue marriage licenses to gay couples?  And remember how there were all of these marriage ceremonies in courthouse hallways and on street corners because everyone was afraid that another court was going to come down at any second and put the kibosh on same-sex marraige again?  And you may recall that some clerks didn't issue those licenses right away saying no one had told them what the process was supposed to be?  And then remember all of the counties started issuing the licenses?  And remember how Republicans were criticizing the clerks for issuing the licenses because they had not been ordered to do so yet?  And then the same judge who lifted the ban put a stay on her own ruling--meaning that there would be no more licenses issued?  And remember how nobody knows now if those same-sex marriages are valid or not?

Hopefully you were able to recall all of that--because we could be facing the same thing again this fall with the lifting of an injunction blocking Wisconsin's Voter Identification Law.  Except in this case, most of the people who were critical of county clerks for jumping the gun and issuing the same-sex marriage licenses are calling for those same clerks to immediately train their poll workers on recognizing acceptable forms of state and federal ID.  That, of course, is to make sure that the ID law is enforced for the all-important gubernatorial election coming up on November 4th.

The only potential problem here is that the same Federal court that lifted the injunction stopping Voter ID last week could easily issue its actual ruling on the appeal brought by the State at any time before November 4th.  And it is entirely possible that it could rule against the state--meaning the injunction goes back into place--and all of the training of poll workers and the research done into people who say they can't afford to buy another birth certificate but want an ID will have been a complete waste of time and taxpayer money.  And more importantly, people will be confused.  And as the rollout of the Affordable Care Act proved, people have little patience or respect for anything government does that they find confusing.

So just like I recommended when the county clerks started issuing the same-sex marriage licenses--when State laws had not been put into place yet to deal with issues related to a practice that had previously been banned, and when another potential court ruling threatened to make the entire practice moot--let's all just wait until this whole legal process plays out before we start putting all of this effort into enforcing such tenuous laws.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Retail Punishment

On Sunday I will not be watching NFL RedZone Channel for my usual 7 uninterrupted hours.  I won't be getting in a late-season round at one of the 7 courses I haven't played yet on this year's Cumulus Golf Card.  I won't even be spending four hours here in the Newsroom getting Monday's newscasts ready.  Instead, I will be at IKEA with my wife.  For her, this is a HUGE event.  For me, it will be like the Bataan Death March--minus the beatings, the shootings, the blistering hot sun and dysentery.

I HATE IKEA.  And in talking with other people of my gender--that seems to be the sentiment of every American male of certain persuasions.  And let me tell you why.

1--The Layout Of The Store.  I always compare going to IKEA to a cross between a casino and Dante's 9 Circles of Hell.  Once you are in the building, there is no way to get back out.  You go through the revolving door and your only option is to go up the escalator for five stories and then wander through every display to find the escalator to take you down just one more level--where the process is repeated again.  Does anyone ever say "I'm just going to run into IKEA real quick to pick up one thing and then I'll be right back out"?  No, because there is no way to immediately go to the item you want to buy and take it right to the register--you know, the way men usually shop.  Which brings me to Point of Hatred #2.....

2--The Pickup Policy.  Once you do find an item you like, if it's a piece of furniture you can't just grab the stuff and go.  Instead, you need to jot down the product number and then the bin and shelf numbers--because actually getting stuff at IKEA is done in the basement.  So you complete the Death March, bring your "grocery list" to the rows and rows of stacked boxes and load up as many as five packages (all awkwardly-sized) onto your flat cart--hoping you didn't miss a box because that will leave you with an incomplete piece of furniture.  Then you wait to get a parking spot in the loading zone where people who obviously never played Tetris in their lives try to fit all of the pieces for a new bedroom set into a Kia Optima.

3--The Instructions.  The "fun" doesn't end at the store, because once you get your items home, you still have to put them together.  And because IKEA is an "international" retailer, there are no instructions in English.  Instead, you get a little stick-figure man and poorly-drawn illustrations to show you the general idea of how the stuff is supposed to go together.  At some steps you almost wish that you had the English-to Chinese--and then back to grammatically-awful English instructions of most other products.

4--It Is The Most Pretentious Store In The World.  Nothing has a "normal" name at IKEA.  Your average bookshelf is a "space-saving personal media display and storage unit".  And the brand names for all the products are these made-up, unpronounceable Scandanavian words--so you hear people asking "Which do you like better--the Svensgaarden or the Mo'almo?"  They think there are fooling us into believing that this is actually made in Sweden--when we all know they are using the same child labor at sweatshops in China that Ashley Home Furniture used state tax credits to relocate all of their work--allegedly.  And they don't let you forget that they are "Eco-Friendly" as well--as all the furniture is made from trees that were terminally ill and chose to voluntarily end their lives to make way for new saplings.

So wish me luck on surviving my ordeal on Sunday.  And on figuring out how our new office set goes together.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Mr Leinies

I believe in celebrating the things in life that bring you happiness--and for me, one of those things is Leinenkugels' beers.  That's why I want to give a big "thank you" to Jake Leinenkugel--who announced this week that he is retiring at the brewer's president.

I started drinking Leinies in college, when the three options offered by them were "regular", Lite (available only in the Chippewa Falls area) and Red.  Then came HoneyWeisse (yes, I pronounce the "w" like a "v" just like all Germans should) and BerryWeiss--which led to custom mix called a "Jake's Pour"--which was half-Honey, Half-Berry.  I even have a divided pitcher in my basement Leinenkugels Shrine that holds a couple bottles of each brew and makes a Jake's pour much easier.

Around that time, Jake and the family sold the operations to Miller Brewing.  There was much concern that Leinies was going to become the same type of swill offered by its new parent company--but in one of the few smart decisions by the Milwaukee folks, Jake was promoted to president and oversaw operations independently from MillerCoors.  Joining the major with its nationwide distribution systems came at a perfect time, because the American beer consumer was ready to try a lot of new things.

That was followed by an explosion of new craft beers from Leinies--like Sunset Wheat (which made its un-official debut at EAA Hops and Props here in Oshkosh, where Jake was on-hand serving out of unmarked bottles this "new elixer").  Then came new porters, apple ales, Russian stouts, amber bocks and eventually Summer Shandy.

I'm sure that when Jake and the brewers pitched the idea to Miller of selling a beer that is mixed with lemonade, it raised a few eyebrows.  But Summer Shandy now accounts for 60% of all Leinies sales.  It is offered long before summer starts and well into the fall to maximize that sale period.  And it is the only Leinies product available in all 48-states.  Oh, and every other major brewer jumped on the shandy bandwagon as well--but none seem to get it quite right.

There are more than a few beer snobs who turn their noses up at Leinenkugel products because they are not a "real microbrew"--but part of the enjoyment of your favorite beer is actually being able to drink it wherever you may be--and under Jake Leinenkugel, some of my favorites went from back corner of the liquor department items to promoted specials in bars and stores around the country.  All thanks to the vision and expertise of Jake Leinenkugel.

Prost, Jake!

Monday, September 8, 2014

They Are Who We Thought They Were

When former Arizona Cardinals Head Coach Dennis Green uttered those famous words, he was referring to the 2006 Chicago Bears--but that infamous line could just as easily describe the 2014 Milwaukee Brewers--whose late season slide has taken them out of first place and, as of this morning, out of the wild card lead as well.

While panic has set in at Miller Park , I would think that if you had surveyed fans where they thought the Crew would be with three weeks left to go, they would have been more than happy with five games over .500 and a half-game out in the National League Wild Card chase.  Because coming into the season, expectations for this squad were mediocre at best.  It's just the way the team over-achieved early in the season that now has the state they are in this fall looking like a total catastrophe.

This month-long slump is nothing more than the law of averages catching up to a team that was playing way over its collective heads.  The beauty of baseball is that the length of the season and sheer number of games played limits the possibility of fluke teams catching fire for a short period of time and riding that into the post-season, excellence over the long haul is almost always rewarded in the end.

The Brewers have glaring weaknesses and this past month they have all been on display for the world to see.  They are incredibly poor situational hitters--meaning they fail to drive in runners from third with fewer than two outs--and they fail to advance runners into scoring position while making outs.  They are below-average defensively and they are easily the worst baserunning team in baseball--often costing themselves outs and runs on the basepaths.  Their pitchers don't throw enough strikes and they lack power arms to get themselves out of jams with strikeouts.

While the calls are growing to fire Manager Ron Roenicke, the real person who should shoulder the blame for this mediocre mess is General Manager Doug Melvin.  Melvin is an "Old School Baseball Guy" who eschews the new strategy of Analytics in putting together a team.  I'm sure he sees basing roster development on career statistics and trends of both hitters and pitchers to be a "passing fad"--and that sitting around waiting for your poor-contact power hitters to club a bunch of three-run homers is going to return teams to glory any day now.  In the meantime, franchises directed by those who grew up on SABRmetrics will continue to dominate: St Louis, San Francisco, Oakland, the New York Yankees and Boston--pretty much every team that has won a World Series in the past decade.

In the meantime, Brewers fans shouldn't get so worked about about their teams late season swoon.  They just are who we thought they were.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Maybe If We Don't Say the Name, It Will Just Go Away

I was among the thousands of journalists to get an email this week from the Oneida Tribe and the National Congress of American Indians asking our radio station to no longer use the term "Redskins" in reference to the Washington NFL football team.  The Tribe and the Congress maintain that there is "no objectivity" in the use of the name--because any mention serves as an "endorsement" of the term.

I have used this forum in the past to voice my own disdain for the Redskins name and mascot.  Unlike "Chiefs", "Braves", "Warriors", "Indians" and tribal names like "Blackhawks" and "Sioux", "Redskins" has no non-racist connotations and is certainly not a part of our normal vernacular.  I also think that team owner Dan Snyder is a bozo who deserves all of the criticism that comes his way.  But to pretend like the name doesn't exist--or to use "replacement terms" like "The Washington Football Team"--does nothing to change the fact that the team mascot is "Redskins".

Some TV announcers have publicly stated that they will not use the name during their broadcasts.  But the Indianhead logo will still be on all the helmets and at midfield.  The word "Redskins" will be painted in both of the endzones and plastered on walls surrounding the field.  After every score the crowd will still be heard singing "Hail to the Redskins".  So unless you plan to digitally blur all of the visual reminders--and mute the non-broadcaster sound coming from the stadium, viewers are still going to be reminded that it's the Redskins.

What I find most interesting is that during a broadcast of Pardon the Interruption on ESPN this week, Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon--two men who will never be hosting their own shows on Fox News Network--continuously referred to the team as "The Redskins".  These are two very liberal men--who live and work right in Washington DC--who referenced the name nine times in four minutes.  Why? Because they are also reporters--and the fact of the matter is: that is the team name--whether they like it or not.

This isn't the first time the "Language Police" have tried to circumvent facts with "creative language".  The Associated Press StyleBook--the "go-to guide" for word usage and spellings of everything appearing in the media--issued the ultimatum that "illegal immigrant" is to no longer be used to describe those who sneak into the country.  That might make those folks and those who wish to aid their lawbreaking feel good, but it still doesn't change the FACTS that they are not originally from this country--making them "immigrants"--and that they did not follow proper immigration policy and procedure--meaning they are here "illegally". 

Of course, if we don't call them that anymore, will that make them go away too?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Bet the House Payments

I'm already 1-0 on my Wisconsin Badger picks, so I may as well give you all the winners for the Packers schedule as well,

Week 1 at Seattle: The Seahawks just plain don't lose at home.  So I will take them here--but the score will be completely dependent on how the referees call the game.  If it's like the flag-fests we saw in the pre-season where looking at a receiver draws a pass interference penalty, then the final score will be 77-70 as the teams take turns throwing bombs to draw flags.  If it's called like defenses are allowed to be on the field, then the Hawks win 23-17.

Week 2 vs the New York Jets:  The Jets can't decide between Geno Smith and Michael Vick at quarterback.  The Packers dominate 34-10.

Week 3 at Detroit: Everyone seems to be jumping on the Lions bandwagon as a possible challenger to the Pack in the NFC North.  It's still the same group of stupid players--with a less-stupid coach.  The Packers still win 31-27.

Week 4 at Chicago: Does Jay Cutler still play quarterback for the Bears? Packers win 27-21.

Week 5 vs Minnesota: Adrian Peterson rushes for 200-yards in this Thursday nighter at Lambeau, but Aaron Rodgers throws for over 400 and Green Bay wins 33-27.

Week 6 at Miami:  Miami will be an improved team this year--and it will likely be about 90 degrees for this Noon kickoff--but the Packers handle the heat and win 26-20.

Week 7 vs Carolina:  There is no more overrated player in the NFL than Cam Newton.  That fact is exposed in this one as the Pack makes it six in a row 23-14.

Week 8 at New Orleans:  They had better make sure that all the lights on the scoreboard at the SuperDome work for this one as Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers throw for 450+--but the Saints get the ball last and kick a game-winning field goal to send the Packers into their bye week with a 44-41 loss.

Week 10 vs Chicago:  Jay Cutler still healthy and playing in this one?  He throws a game-losing Pick Six in the 4th, Packers win the Sunday nighter 34-27.

Week 11 vs Philadelphia:  I doubt Scott Tolzien or Seneca Wallace will be playing QB for the Green Bay in this one.  Packers win again 28-20.

Week 12 at Minnesota: Remember, still no dome for the Vikings so it could be a bit chilly.  Eddie Lacy outgains AP on the ground and the Packers grind out a 20-16 win.

Week 13 vs New England:  CBS will be hyping this as a POTENTIAL SUPER BOWL PREVIEW!!!!  If that is the case, Tom Brady is getting his fourth ring.  Pats win 38-31.

Week 14 vs Atlanta:  Atlanta stunk last year--but mainly because all of their skill position guys got hurt.  I think they catch the Pack in a letdown from the previous loss to New England and steal one at Lambeau 28-27.

Week 15 at Buffalo:  I predict an absolute blizzard coming off of Lake Ontario December 14th and the NFL sees its first 0-0 tie since 1943.  Yes, I am predicting a tie.

Week 16 at Tampa:  Wow, what a difference a week makes.  Green Bay goes from a foot of snow to 80-degrees and sun--and whips up on the Buccaneers 38-10.

Week 17 vs Detroit: The Lions may have a chance to catch Green Bay for the NFC North title in this one.  That is why they will choke like the gutless dogs they are. Packers 41-14.

Green Bay wins the Division with an 11-4-1 record--but get the #3 Seed behind Seattle and New Orleans.  That means they play at home in the WildCard round beating Atlanta in game marred by the return of the Polar Vortex and dangerous wind chills on a Saturday night at Lambeau 17-6.

The Packers hit the road in the Divisional Round to face New Orleans again and this time Aaron Rodgers sets up the game-winning FG by going over 500-yards passing.  Packers 47-44.

And then it's back to Seattle for Green Bay in the NFC Championship.  Former Badger Russell Wilson stickes it to Wisconsin fans again--running in the game-winning TD late.  Seahawks return to the Super Bowl with a 37-34 win.

In Arizona, Seattle's hopes for a repeat are dashed as Peyton Manning exacts his revenge.  Broncos are Super Bowl champs this time, 34-17.

So there you go.  Start planning your earlier retirement with all of the cash I just made for you.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Tenant Nation

The uber-Liberal website Salon.com has an article trumpeting the move Millenials are making away from the American Dream of home ownership to becoming lifelong renters.  At first I was unsure why a site that endlessly decries the "economic inequality" of America today would extoll the virtues of further dividing the "haves and the have-nots".  But as you read through the article you realize that tenants fit the Liberal mantra of greater Government dependence and control.

It's much easier for Government to interfere in the prices of rents rather than home prices.  We all experienced the disaster created by Congressman Barney Frank and former Senator Chris Dodd when they demanded that lenders in the 1990's create mortgage products that would allow people without the proven financial means to own a home to still purchase one based on outrageous amounts of credit and risk.  Rent control programs however have been in place for decades--requiring a certain percentage of housing development targeted at low-income renters.  Of course, that has created housing crunches in places like San Francisco and New York, where rent control tenants hold onto those units forever and prevent new tenants or residents from coming in.

Renters also tend not to have as many personal transportation options as well.  The hassle of dealing with parking in high-density rental areas leads many to rely on Government transportation options like buses, subways, light rail and even high-speed rail to get anywhere--even though they could afford to purchase and maintain their own vehicles.  Take a little drive sometime and compare the number of "gas guzzling" pickup trucks and SUV's you see in apartment parking lots compared to what homeowners have parked in their driveways and garages.

Those living in apartments have far fewer concerns about property rights.  It doesn't matter to them if the city adopts new fencing standards, exterior appearance ordinances, setback requirements, or RV and boat parking rules.  I can't remember ever seeing large groups of apartment dwellers come before any council or county board to oppose a new regulation or requirement for property.

Let's not forget that tenants have far less stake in the cost of operating Big Government.  They don't get property tax bills or special assessment bills. Most don't get hit with garbage and recycling collection fees, stormwater utility fees or in many cases even water bills.  All of that is just included in the "rent" they pay each month--so if their landlord happens to increase that price to deal with the added costs incurred by Government spending, who does the tenant blame?  The "greedy landlord"--not the City, the County or the School District.

And renting also takes away a certain amount of financial stability.  While it should not be seen as an "investment"--as was the mantra of the 2000's--having a paid-for home is a nice little nest egg.  Those who never build equity in a house won't have that to use later in life--so they become more dependent on Social Security and Medicare to live out the "golden years".  It also make them perfect targets for the scare tactics of "potential cuts to our retirement security" every two years.

Most Millenials are probably blind to what they are giving up--and the control over the lives that will be imposed upon them--by never considering home ownership.  But most probably don't care.  Just so long as they can keep buying their $6 cups of Mohca Java Latte Grande with Almond Milk every day and their No Data Limit cellphone plans every month they will be happy with having less than their parents had--just like the Liberals want them to be.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Hamstrung President

President Obama and his supporters always like to blame the Republican-controlled House of Representatives for preventing him from accomplishing anything during his two terms in office.  But what they choose to ignore are three other factors that are leading this administration to be the least effective since the days of Reconstruction.

The first problem for the President is that he expended enough political capital for both terms in getting the Affordable Care Act passed in Congress.  A lot of Congressional Democrats carried a lot of water up the hill to get that bill passed in a midnight vote on Christmas Eve--and many of them died on that hill.  Dozens lost in the "Tea Party Revolt" of 2010 (or didn't even bother to run for re-election after seeing the writing on the wall).  Others who survived the initial backlash see no need to make that kind of sacrifice again--regardless of how "important" the President's bills may be.  Sure, those in relatively safe Democratic districts like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are willing to back the President no matter what he wants--but he has few other friends anymore on Capitol Hill.

Secondly, the financial status of those the President has tried the hardest to help is adding unnecessary delay to the economic recovery.  It would seem counterintuitive to say that giving more money to the poor benefits only the rich--but when you consider that many of the poor (and the "struggling middle class") are so far in debt that any extra revenue provided to them goes more toward getting out of the hole than climbing the economic ladder it makes more sense.  Who has done the best in the "recovery" so far?  Big Banks--who were owed trillions in consumer debt heading into the downturn, and kept adding interest to those balances until the debtors could start paying it back again.  If we hadn't built the post 9/11 "recovery" upon a foundation of debt, we'd actually be a lot farther along in this one.

And then the President has been hamstrung in foreign policy since the day he entered office by being a Nobel Peace Prize winner.  You don't think military options are moved farther down the list of options--or completely removed in the case of Ukraine--because the President doesn't want to see headlines like "Nobel Peace Prize Winner orders airstrikes on terrorist positions"  or "President Obama--a Nobel Peace Prize Winner--sends additional NATO troops to Eastern Ukraine to confront Russian intervention"?  The motto of the Nobel folks isn't "Peace through strength"--it's "Peace through capitulation and appeasement".  FDR, Harry Truman, John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan didn't win Peace Prizes for a reason.

So Democrats running for Federal office can blame "obstructionist Republicans" all they want for the failures of the Obama Administration to do more to "transform America"--but the GOP certainly isn't the only factor in this derailment.