Friday, November 28, 2014

Sore Losers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

That For Which I am Thankful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

NOBODY Won Last NIght

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 24, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 21, 2014

So Just Some People Shouldn't Have to Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Middle Finger Speech

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Helping Nature

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Holiday By Any Other Name....

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Thing of Beauty

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 14, 2014

Curb Your Enthusiasm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 13, 2014

At What Price Glory?

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

North Side Troubles

It certainly has not been a good couple of weeks for the north side of Oshkosh.  Assaults on UW-Oshkosh students were followed by news that a UWO student was making ricin along Frederick Street and then last night we had a raid on a suspected meth lab just one block over along Franklin.  You even had a long time restaurant on that side of town--Vitale's--close up shop last weekend. 

The city of Oshkosh and the people living in the neighborhoods affected by this recent rash of incidents have put a lot of time, effort and money into trying to clean up the image of "that side" of the river.  I know a few people who live not far from the Ricin/Meth Block and they are frustrated by the continued problems over there--and how it just makes it more difficult to even consider moving out--because who is going to want to buy a house at true market value that sits near homes that are featured on the news for weeks on end?

Solutions to the issues plaguing part of the North Side are not going to come easily.  The demographics of the area make positive changes difficult.  Many of the homes in the area we are talking about are not owner occupied.  And while the City is adopting new building codes to spruce up the outside appearances of some of these houses--it still doesn't change the character of the people inside. 

Students here for four or five years renting some of those houses don't care about long-term, positive change in a neighborhood.  They just want somewhere they can live where they aren't going to get hassled for drinking while underage and smoking pot.  Those here to be closer to loved ones (or baby daddies) housed in one of our correctional facilities just want to "do their time" and return to wherever they originally called home.  And those who relocate to Oshkosh in order to serve the burgeoning illegal drug market will continue to be lured by the ability to make money--no matter how many of their predecessors we put in one of our correctional facilities.

Even if you were to go through with a bulldozer and raze all of the "problem houses" and replace them with nice townhomes or condos or assisted senior living that is going up everywhere else, all you are going to do is "relocate" the problems as well to the next older neighborhood with rental stock.  And we have laws that prevent landlords from refusing to rent to someone if they only "think they are going to be trouble".

So all we can do is remain vigilant and not adopt the attitude of "it ain't my problem" when we see something going on that isn't quite right.  We all live in Oshkosh--and we all share in the responsibility to make it as good a place to live as we can--even if it is on "that side of town".

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

And You Though Common Core Was Bad

A friend in education sent me a link yesterday to a story about the Minneapolis School District placing a moratorium on all suspensions and expulsions for students of color.  The District had been under fire from Federal Department of Education for high rates of minority suspensions and expulsions--so it initially appeared that they simply chose to just stop taking those kids out of classes--regardless of their disruption to others' learning or damage to school property. 

But after doing some further reading, I found that the Minneapolis Schools had actually adopted something called the "Model Code on Education and Dignity" from a group called Dignity In Schools.  And what is contained in that "code" is enough to scare the pants off many parents.

First off, the Model Code places the blame for high rates of minority suspensions and expulsions on an increasingly common target in education today: white teachers and administrators.  The basis for the so-called "discipline gap" is cited as being the same as the cause of the "achievement gap" for minority students--majority-white instructors are "culturally insensitive" to students of color.  Minority students cannot be expected to abide by the same standards of behavior as white children--and teachers must learn to accept that--even if it disrupts the learning environment for everyone else in the class.

The Code also demands that inappropriate actions be "decriminalized"--meaning kids that act up should not be singled out for discipline.  Instead, the boy who goes around at recess shoving everyone to the ground should not be brought to the principal's office--but instead he and all of his victims should be included in "restorative circles" to discuss all of their actions and the impact they have on one another.

I should also mention that the term "parent" appears a scarce number of times in the Model Code.  This is of course, because minority parents have been absolved of any responsibility for their children.  Their "job" is done, they have created the "ward of the State"--and now the State must do it's job of raising them (at your expense).

While all of the "feel good, restorative justice" stuff was to be expected, what is scary are the further recommendations in the Model Code that just plain put the lives of other students and adults in schools in jeopardy.  Like the recommendation that schools no longer conduct drug searches.  Or that kids caught dealing drugs on campus be put into school counseling programs--instead of being referred to police.  That all arrests on campus be done only after consultation with the principal (a person with a background in education and administration--not criminal justice and law enforcement).  And perhaps most disturbing, the elimination of Police Liason Officers in schools.  We wouldn't want to have students of color seeing policemen as someone they can trust--that would ruin the narrative of how all cops are racist and just want to incarcerate or kill young black men.

Now you may think "Who cares, Jonathan, that's the Minneapolis School District."  But keep in mind that public education is a copycat industry--and programs adopted in one district become the "hot new trend" at hundreds of other districts--at least until the next "revolution in education" comes along and everything we were doing before gets thrown out the window again (remember "Everyday Math" here in Oshkosh?).  A process that works because the customer base is always turning over--and there is no one to question the continuous 180-degree turns.  And new standards that require the hiring of more teachers, administrators, para-professionals and the purchase of new technology are especially popular.  So we'll let you know when the Model Code of Education and Dignity comes to Oshkosh--providing more cover for adults who refuse to do their jobs as parents.

Monday, November 10, 2014

'Tis the Season

The season is once again upon us--where we are reminded constantly of what we "absolutely have to have"--and there is "no time to waste" in getting it--and there are "people out there waiting to help you".  I don't mean the Christmas shopping season--I mean the now-annual Affordable Care Act Health Insurance Open Enrollment Period.

I got an email over the weekend from the League of Women  Voters that they are putting on another forum this week to "help" those "confused" by the ACA to "navigate the system" and get their federally-subsidized health insurance.  It will take a mere five panelists to "explain" the process of logging onto before December 15th....or January 15th....or March 15th....or whatever date the Obama Administration decides to make its arbitrary deadline for coverage to begin on January 1st this time around.

Similar efforts to make sure as many people as possible signed up for the exchanges resulted in eight-million registrations last year--many of whom were people already covered by a more expensive policy through their employer or who had been on Medicaid--and a far cry from the 30-million Americans we were told time and again were "desperate for health insurance" when the ACA was approved in 2010.  You have to wonder why "affordable health care" remains such a difficult sell to people who "obviously" need it?

Meanwhile, the few that will likely attend this week's forum are probably already able to tell you when Interstellar opened in theaters, what new GoPro cameras are on the market this holiday season and how to shop on  Yet the organizers of these forums believe that all of these uninsured people are that way because they "just didn't know about their options"--or they "just don't have access to the right information" to get signed up.

Unfortunately, the frustration that groups like the League of Women Voters will feel as attendance at these forums dwindle every year--while the number of uninsured remains about the same--will drive the inevitable push to forgo private insurance altogether and go to Nationalized Health Care with Uncle Sam paying everyone's bills--even if they (the patient)can afford to pay--and Uncle Sam cannot.  It's obviously too much to ask Americans to make their own choices about their lives.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Freeloaders

I see that singer Taylor Swift has run afoul of her fans this week.  No, 10-year old girls have not suddenly developed a taste for sophisticated, non-repetitive songs about something other than breaking up with your boyfriend.  Instead, Swift has pulled her entire music catalog from the streaming service Spotify.  That means teenyboppers and Creepy Rob Lowe types can't add her songs to their playlist in the Spotify app anymore.  They are upset--and claim that Taylor Swift "owes it to her fans" to give them the opportunity to listen to her latest tracks.

Of course, if these people were actually Taylor Swift "fans", they would be willing to actually pay something to listen to that music.  Unlike ITunes, Spotify is free on the user end (you can pay a monthly fee to avoid have to hear commercials every other song--but most of that money goes to Spotify--not the artists).  Spotify pays artists who allow their songs to be used a whopping $0.0084 for hot new songs down to $0.006 per play for older, less-popular songs on the site.  And for Miss Swift and a growing number of other artists in all muscial genres, that isn't enough--especially when you consider that for many "fans" having those one or two songs in their playlist is a preferred alternative to buying what we old fogies like to call "a CD" or a digital download at ITunes.

I am a Spotify user myself--but I choose sit through the commercials--I'm not paying to avoid them.  And most of my playlist is music that I used to have on what us old fogies call "Cassette Tapes"--and never purchased again in a digital format.  There are plenty of artists that I enjoy who make NONE of their music available on Spotify--like The Beatles--and I am perfectly fine with that, because I see some value in having their music to listen to whenever I want.  And that is why I was willing to endure ridicule at the store and purchase the newly-remastered versions of all of their albums (You know they are on ITunes too, Sir)--rather than sit there and complain because "they aren't giving us what we want......for free".

The internet has created a generation of freeloaders who seem to think they have a "right" to have everything provided to them without having to pay for it.  It's why I see complaints about the "pay walls" put up on news sites like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.  If you really valued the information contained in the articles, you'd be willing to pony up the cash necessary to not only access them--but to also compensate the people who worked to gather that information and post it on the web, wouldn't you?

And the "everything free for me" attitude has permeated other areas as well--like health care.  The argument that it is a "right" and that there should be no out-of-pocket expenses--just the "greedy insurance companies" and Government paying for it--that got us the "Affordable" Care Act.  And now you have the "all higher education should be free" and the "student loan debt should be forgiven" pushes that will serve to devalue college degrees even further.

So if Taylor Swift songs, articles about the new discoveries in planetary development, birth control pills and a degree in French Literature are really that important to you, I suggest you put your money where you mouth is for them again.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Now That's My Kinda Party!!

Lost in all of the hoopla over the switch in power in the US Senate Tuesday night was the number of historic "firsts" that also resulted from the elections.  We have the first African-American elected to the Senate from a "Southern State" in 133-years.  He is also the first African-American to ever be elected to both the House and then to the Senate.  We have the first Haitian-American ever elected to Congress.  The first female combat veteran is heading to the Senate--along with the first Iraq and Afghanistan Wars veteran elected to that chamber.  Then there is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress--a 30-year old from upstate New York.  And speaking of young, an 18-year old West Virginia college co-ed has become the nation's youngest State lawmaker.  A staggering increase in the amount of "diversity" among those who represent us in the halls of power.

And did I mention all of those lawmakers are Republicans?

I'll give you a minute to let that sink in.  I know that the narrative put forth by the Obama Administration, MSNBC talking heads, and websites like and the Huffington Post is that the GOP is nothing but a bunch of angry, old, white, racist, misogynist, sexist, homophobic, Bible-quoting rich men with their uneducated, Stepford Wives--mixed in with some rednecks and gun-toting lunatics.  I seem to remember after the 2008 Presidential election that more than a few "experts" called that night a harbinger of the death of the Republican Party--as their members would all just die off in the next few years--leaving behind nothing but "enlightened" liberals to control the country in a single-party state.

So what happened?  How could those dire predictions have been so wrong?

Well for starters, John McCain excited absolutely no one in the Republican Party--whether you were white, black, Latino, man or woman.  Mitt Romney in 2012 wasn't any more exiting to New Conservatives either--although having Paul Ryan on the ticket did give many hope.  But as the Obama Administration plodded along, we began to see that opposition to crushing national debt and increased expansion of government control and intrusion into our lives knows no gender, race or age boundaries.

"Diversity" in the US doesn't just apply to skin color and religious beliefs--but to thought about what our country should be like.  There will always be women who refuse to be prioritized strictly by their reproductive organs.  There will be African-Americans who realize the promise of welfare special consideration for the past fifty years has not improved their community's standing one bit.  There will be Latinos who support the rule of law when it comes to legal entry into this country.  And there will be young adults who don't feel that everything--including health care and higher education--should be handed to them for free.

And so long as we have diversity in thought in this country, there will always be hope for the Republican Party.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Obama Miracle

The Common Core-approved, multi-media American History apps that today's schoolchildren download to their taxpayer-provided tablet computers will tell them that President Barack Obama's 2008 election victory is the high point of American politics as it "saw a Black man overcome a racist population by lifting the spirits of the disenfranchised with a promise of hope and change".  But I'm guessing that real historians and political scientists of the future will consider Obama's 2012 re-election as the greatest miracle in the history of US politics.

2008 was a layup for Democrats.  Voters--angry with the collapse of the economy caused by their own deep plunge into debt--were not going to elect any Republicans that year.  But with an approval rating of less than 50%, a still sour economy and the supposed rise of the Tea Party as a "major political force", President Obama was still able to cruise to victory in 2012.  And the Democratic electoral disasters that have surrounded the 2012 win make that day all the more miraculous. 

Now that we are a couple of years out, we can see start to see how it happened.  In 2012, President Obama still had something to promise enough of the American people to win--and that was "full implementation of the Affordable Care Act".  Up until November of 2012, all the ACA had done was treat 26-year olds like children and require insurance companies to take on people with pre-existing conditions--no matter how much that would cost other policyholders.  So the "hope" of 2008 was still there yet--we were "so close" to having "access to health care" and it was worth it--to enough people--to give the President a second term.

And then came October of 2013--when the ACA actually did go into full effect.  And people found out that the magic elixir of "access to health care" turned out to be just plain old insurance.  And like everybody who had it before them, the new enrollees soon found out that unless you get really sick, having health insurance really isn't that life-changing.  It didn't get them a job if they were unemployed, it didn't put more money in their pockets if they were poor and uninsured before, and it didn't suddenly make all of that consumer debt go away.  So in 2014, those who had helped President Obama pull off his second-term miracle stayed home--and did not support those who promised to protect the "benefits" they voted for in 2008 and 2012. 

Supporters of Mary Burke should have known the campaign was in serious trouble when they invited President Obama to stump on her behalf in the final few days before the election.  You'll notice the President didn't come to Green Bay or Appleton or Oshkosh or La Crosse or any of the other "swing areas" where Burke needed to do well to have a chance yesterday.  Instead, the rally was held in a predominantly-black ward in Milwaukee that had seen 99% of all votes cast in the 2012 Presidential election go for Obama.  They were hoping for one final miracle--knowing that pretty much everybody else around the state had given up on the "hope and change" idea.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

America, In Two Minutes

So I thought that I had composed the perfect Two Cents for today--with inspirational prose that would get you so fired up about voting that you would be busting down the doors to your polling place as soon as we reached 7:00.  And then jazz musician Chris Botti did this before the Monday Night Football game last night:

this is very good by dm_520cd98243c9e

Mike Tirico is referring there to the shot of Indianapolis Colts Wide Receiver Reggie Wayne--who appeared to be getting very emotional listening to the Anthem on the sidelines.  Well believe me, Reggie Wayne wasn't the only person who looked like he was cutting onions after that.

And after weeks radio ads, and TV ads, and internet banner ads, and Facebook ads, and yard signs and billboards screaming at us--it's a  man playing a large-bore trumpet that actually affects us most.  And that is really what America is all about.  Not all the yelling and the screaming and the spin--but that place inside all of us that Chris Botti touched with his simple version of a song that we have all heard thousands of times and yet can still move us. 

THAT is what we need to take with us today into the voting booth.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The NON-Accountability Board

Today we are reporting on UW-Oshkosh confirming that one of its employees was using his school-issued email address to do campaign work on behalf of Representative Gordon Hintz.  Dr David Jones had actually listed his address as his "official" campaign contact since 2008--meaning the state ethics violation had been occurring for six years.  In addition, UWO released records that show Jones used that email account to file campaign finance reports for Hintz during that time.  As you would expect, both state elections and University System rules strictly prohibit such activity using state resources.  Now I will leave it up to the voters to decide what accountability they will demand from Representative Hintz and his campaign tomorrow.  But voters are not able to hold the people who are supposed to be watching for this activitiy accountable: the grossly-misnamed Government Accountability Board

Remember, David Jones had a clearly-state-issued email address listed as his contact for six years.  It was listed on the GAB website--for six years.  And at no time during that six years did anyone at the GAB look at that and say "Hey wait a minute, isn't that a university email address?"  And Jones used that email address to file the Hintz campaign finance reports multiple times over that six year period.  At no time did someone at GAB say "Hey, this is coming from a university email address--that can't be right."  Instead, they went along--with their heads buried in their documents--oblivious to a state ethics violation looking them right in the eye.

I can already tell you what the GAB excuse will be: "We only investigate complaints filed with us--we don't actively look for violations".  That's akin to having a police department where all of the officers sit in the headquarters all day and don't venture out unless someone calls 911--even if they might see something happening while looking out of the window.  Not exactly the most effective way to fight crime is it?  And yet, when detractors demand changes to the GAB's structure and function, those calls are dismissed as "partisan politics" by self-appointed "political watchdogs".

Speaking of which, where were our good friends Mike McCabe of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign and Jay Heck of Common Cause in Wisconsin?  These folks pride themselves on pouring over every campaign finance report filed every year by every candidate--and pointing out every accounting error or donation total a few bucks over the allowable limit--yet they never noticed this either?  Perhaps they were too blinded by their zeal to "uncover the "millionaires trying to buy our elections" to notice real violations of the rules.

And while we are talking about accountability, UWO was more than happy to provide us with a copy of the warning issued to all faculty, staff and students about the use of school resources for campaigning to cover their butts for allowing this to happen.  But I got the sense in talking with spokesman Alex Hummel that because Jones was "apologetic and admitted that it was a mistake" (for six years) that the University will be taking no actions against the professor--sending another strong message about accountability in the process.