Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2015: The Year That Never Happened

Now is a popular time to make bold predictions about what is going to happen in the new year, but that is going to be a pointless endeavor this time around--because 2015 is going to be the year that never happened.  Sure, there will be 365 days on the calendar--but everything that takes place from a political, economic and social aspect will be viewed through the prism of 2016.

For all intents and purposes, 2016 started the day after the November elections this year.  Have you heard any serious conversation about what is going to be accomplished in Washington in 2015?  The assumption is that anything majority Republicans send to President Obama will be vetoed out of hand and the stalemate will just continue as normal.  And the focus has now turned to the "tough map" that Republicans face in 2016--including the re-election challenge Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson faces in a Presidential year.  That means every committee meeting he chairs, every vote he takes on the floor of the Senate and every appearance on Fox News and Morning Joe will be evaluated in how it "affects his chances in 2016".  Meanwhile, every word uttered by Russ Feingold in his college speeches will be parsed to determine if he is running again in 2016.

Governor Scott Walker's new budget will be seen as a de facto 2016 Presidential campaign platform.  Every visit to Iowa or New York or Texas will be seen as a "clear sign" that he is running in 2016.  Speeches at Governors' conferences or GOP conventions will be seen as "practice runs" for 2016.  Republicans in the Legislature will likely front-end their agendas so as not to have to handle any controversial issue in 2016--and not to put their huge majorities in Madison at risk.

And expect to hear plenty about Hillary Clinton for the next 365 days--always preceded with the label "The Clear Democratic Front-runner for 2016".  Everything that happens around the world will be presented in ways that ask "how does this affect Hillary's chances in 2016?"  ISIS steps up their attacks in Iraq and Syria? How would Hillary handle it?  Vladamir Putin continues his secret war in Ukraine?  Would Hillary stand up to him?  What does Hillary think about protests over police shootings of unarmed young black men?  (Of course, by the time we actually get to 2016, the media narrative will be "Are people burned out on Hillary Clinton?"--just like in 2008.)

So enjoy your 2015--or as I like to call it: the FIRST 365 days of 2016.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

First World Problems

The first time my wife and I took a trip to Hawaii we brought along 8--count them--8 pieces of luggage.  Four full-sized suitcases, two carry-ons and two "personal items" that were stowed under the seat.  As you can imagine--we were quite the sight in airports across the country and the Pacific--trying to grab all of those bags off the conveyor, lugging them through the terminals to the rental car shuttle buses and then trying to fit all of that into our vehicles.  As we prepare to embark on the same trip next year, we are hoping to cut back--especially now that Hawaiian Airlines charges bag fees--which were non-existent in 2005.

This time we won't be taking cold weather gear for Sunrise on Haleakala or biking gear for the ride down the mountain or hiking gear or night-time hiking gear--which should clear up plenty of space in the bags.  Except we have new "must bring along" items--mainly all of our electronics.

A preliminary list shows 3 cameras, 2 cell phones, 2 Ipods, a GPS unit and an e-reader will all have to make the trip.  And with them will have to come all of their chargers.  The only problem is, how many hotel rooms and bed and breakfast bedrooms have NINE electrical outlets to charge all of that stuff at the same time?  Although I have noticed some hotel chains are now placing outlets and USB charging ports near the bedside tables--but that still won't be nearly enough.  So now I am forced to buy a seven-port USB charger (the absolute largest unit I can find online) to bring along on the trip.

But then you start thinking, "well we are only going to be in the room at night--and we will be using the cameras and the GPS and the e-reader all day somewhere else.  How will we keep them charged then?"  and that leads to the purchase of multi-port car chargers--and research into how many charging ports (they don't call them cigarette lighters anymore) does a new Jeep Wrangler have?  And how many amps does that put out?

But what about the times we are out on a boat or in a helicopter and a camera battery is getting low?  Well then you need to have a portable charger (that you plugged into the seven port charger earlier) to power up in case of emergency.  And what if the Ipods and the Kindle go dead on the four hour plane rides?  Well then you get the Extra Comfort Economy class seats with the built in charging plugs--alternating the items as they get drained.

It's hard to believe all you have to bring along nowadays--just to get away from it all.

Monday, December 29, 2014

What Are You Doing Here?

I'm often asked around this time of year: "What are you doing here?"  Many in the radio and TV biz take this week off--with little going on, no ratings period and not much to talk about.  Or they have to "recover from the holidays".  If you need time off to recover from one day of giving gifts to other people then you are taking it way too seriously.

Personally, I don't see why you would want to be off at this time of year.  You're not going to be able to play golf, or spend a day at the park with the kids or go for a scenic drive through the country.  The mall is going to be packed with high school kids off from class all week and with gift cards burning holes in their wallets.  About the only thing this week has going for it is daytime college football bowl games--but even those are crappy matchups (like today's titanic clash between 6-6 Texas and 6-6 Arkansas in the Texas Bowl).

Besides, it's amazing how much work you can actually accomplish when no one is around to bother you.  No one asking what you thought about Aaron Rodgers "comeback" last night, or the usual dirty play of the Lions.  No one scheduling a meeting at your busiest time of the day to recap the bullet points of last week's meeting so "we are all on the same page".  My usual 500 emails from every public relations firm, third party political group, community organization and seller of "male enhancement" drops precipitously this week--meaning even less time emptying out my inbox.  If anything, coming to work at this time of year is the real "vacation".

Believe me, I would much rather sit in the office today and even for most of New Year's day getting stuff done--so that I don't have to sit in the office trying to get things done on those glorious June days when the sun is warm, the breeze is light, the golf courses are in perfect condition and I can sit on the back patio and grill out while wearing my shorts and flip-flops.  Now that is time off well spent.

Friday, December 26, 2014

In Case You Missed It

It's always difficult to keep up with the important news of the day at this time of year.  Parties and get-togethers take us out of our normal routines.  And broadcasts are filled with stories of generosity or need for generosity or just recaps of what else happened throughout the year.  But there are a couple can't miss things that happened in the past few days that need to be in the limelight.

The first is the demise of the "Single Payer" health care system in Vermont.  This was the "Government Option" that so many Democrats--especially former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold--insisted was "needed" instead of the Affordable Care Act and the exchanges featuring private insurance company policies.  Advocates of "Single Payer" claim it's the only option that will ever work--as the Government will control costs and resources will be "re-distributed" to those who need them the most.

Vermont was one of the few states to buy into those arguments.  They were all set to launch their "Medicare For All" system next week--becoming the vanguard for what would surely be a national movement to centralized health care.  And then Governor Peter Shumlin had to kill the plan admitting (to the shock of NO Fiscal Conservatives) there was no way the state could afford to pay for it.  The Vermont "Single Payer" plan was going to be funded by an 11.5% payroll tax on private businesses--and a 9.5% premium tax on all private sector workers.  The Governor finally had to admit that putting those new taxes in place would have had a negative effect on the economy and likely put Vermont in a hole that could not be risked at this time. 

Meanwhile, over in France, that country will allow its so-called "Super Tax" on the wealthy to expire next week after two years in place.  The 75% income tax rate was going to be panacea for French economic woes--as it would "redistribute wealth" and ease the country's debilitating debt caused by decades of government health care and pension programs.

The only problem was the money raised by the "Super Tax" didn't come anywhere near the levels needed to actually make a difference--and it further hampered the French economy.  Not surprisingly (at least to Fiscal Conservatives), many of the high-earners simply moved to lower-tax countries.  Others chose deferred compensation plans that would underpay them for the first two years of the tax--and then feature balloon payments on the back end when the tax would likely wither and die.  And those on the outside became reluctant to invest in French companies--or come in as executives--for fear that the taxes could go even higher.

So two of the cornerstones of Liberal fiscal policy--Government-run health care and "Tax the Rich"--come crashing down in the same week around the holidays.  Think of it as a bit of cold reality during a time of fairy tales and magic.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

So This is Christmas.....

Undoubtedly, the best of the "modern classic" Christmas songs include lyrics that promote peace on earth, goodwill toward all, charity for the poor and understanding between races.  In addition, it asks listeners what they did to forward those causes in the previous year--and challenges them to take the spirit of the season into the new year and to be the change that they want to see.

And ironically enough, it was written by an avowed atheist.

I'm talking, of course about John Lennon's Happy Xmas (War Is Over).  The song was released in 1971--at the height of the Vietnam War, the Cold War and Britain's conversion to the nanny state.  Yet the lyrics have the same relevance today.  To make it easier to consider that message, I'll spare you the original version and the warbling of Yoko Ono--and instead present you with a beautiful version by Sarah McLachlan.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


First, Microsoft--for ending support for Windows XP.  This means the painfully-slow, outdated computers I am forced to use here at the Radio Ranch are running even slower and nearing death.  You don't see auto dealerships telling people they aren't going to repair their older cars anymore do you?

Next, Listeners who call to complain they can't order our Sweet Deal certificates every week because they don't have the internet--Folks, it's almost 2015.  Even my mother who hates technology has a cellphone and a tablet computer now.  Do you call Groupon to complain you can't get their deals either?  What am I saying, you have no idea what Groupon is.

Then you have, Listeners who call to complain they can't use their Sweet Deal certificates the same day they order them.  I will grant you, it's almost 2015 and that every other site allows you to print your own certificate for immediate use--but please refer to my first Grievance for the reason why you have to wait for our certificates in the mail.  It won't kill you to pay full price for the Senior Special one night while you wait.

People who wear Mossy Oak camouflage clothing like it's normal fashion.  You do realize the design is meant to fool animals with poor vision--not to impress humans who can see 20/20.

Which leads us too.....Duck Dynasty Fans--News Flash!!  That is not how the Robinsons actually run their business.  And that is not how they act in "real life".  They are paid to behave that way for the cameras--and they do it because they have products to sell--yet some of you hail them as this "great American family".

Next, The United States Postal Service--which would rather have its customers stand in line after the self-serve postage machine at the 20th Avenue location fails to dispense all of their Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer stamps just to tell them at the counter that you need to reach deep inside the machine because "they tend to get stuck up there", instead of fixing the machine so they don't get stuck deep inside!!!!  No wonder you are going broke at a record pace!!!!

In sports, Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin--who has made absolutely no off-season moves to improve or even "shake up" the team.  Did last August and September actually happen?  Did we all dream that the team blew a nine-game lead in the National League Central and didn't even make the playoffs as a Wild Card team?  And you plan to go into next year with pretty much the same group that doesn't take pitches, move runners over with less than two outs, throw strikes in key situations and that gives teams extra outs every night with shoddy defense?

And finally, High School and College Football Coaches that run the Spread/Read Option offense--You are ruining football by producing generations of quarterbacks that can't read more than one player on defense, can't audible out of plays, have no mechanics for a seven step drop after taking a snap under center or planting their feet as they throw and don't go through a progression of reads if their first option is covered.  Just look at the disaster the position of QB has become in the NFL, as coaches try to do what they can with the likes of Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Geno Smith.

Now Festivus comes to an end with the Feats of Strength.  Festivus is not over until you pin me!!

Monday, December 22, 2014

We Only See What We Want To See

As my wife would be the first to tell you, there is such a thing as "selective hearing".  You know, where you only hear what you want to hear as someone is talking to you.  Well there is apparently "selective vision" as well--where you only see what you want to see.

The perfect example of that came last week when the Legislative Audit Bureau released a report on the operations of the state Unemployment Insurance system.  Auditors found that the state paid out $168-MILLION to more than 681-thousand recipients who were not entitled to those benefits.  The audit also found that 1.7-MILLION calls to the agency's call center went unanswered due to a limited number of lines and staffers.

Not surprisingly, the two parties in Madison saw the results of the audit in complete opposite ways.  Republicans saw just the $168-MILLION lost via fraud.  Assembly Speaker Robin Vos called a press conference to use the audit results to "prove" that fraud is rampant in the welfare system--and to justify his and Governor Scott Walker's call to drug test unemployment and welfare recipients before they are eligible to receive benefits.  However, nowhere in the audit does it say that drug use made any of the recipients of the benefits ineligible--and that testing would reduce that amount in any way. 

Democrats on the other hand, only saw the backlog of 1.7-MILLION calls in the audit.  In the Democratic Weekly Radio Address, Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Schilling blamed Governor Walker for not hiring more (unionized) state workers to deal with Unemployment calls.  However, nowhere in the audit does it say that all of those that didn't have their calls answered were denied benefits.  It's simply the number of calls that got a busy signal--or were never connected to the automated system properly--when someone called in to file or extend their claim.

It doesn't bode well for the state when those we elect to address our problems choose not to see what they are.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Why Are You Celebrating?

Did you ever have one of those celebrations at work marking some sales record or profit margin or production mark?  And in attendance is invariably the laziest guy in the office who didn't lift a finger to help anyone achieve that performance--or there's the mid-level manager that did nothing but second-guess all of the business plans or try to sabotage efforts of other departments to make his look good.  So everyone else looks at that guy and wonders "What is he doing here?  He didn't contribute in any way to this success!"

Well that is the way I feel about liberals "celebrating" the recent fall in gas prices.  Rachel Maddow on MSNBC is trying to tell her handful of viewers that the gas prices are "proof that President Obama's policies are working".  Meanwhile last Sunday, Keynsian Economist Paul Krugman had to admit through clenched teeth that lower gas prices are good for the US economy--as that puts more money into people's pockets.

While they may force a smile for the camera and pretend to be happy for consumers, low gas prices go against pretty much everything those on the Left hope to achieve.

When President Obama talks about how oil production has gone up during his administration, he isn't talking about drilling in shallow coastal waters or deep water drilling in the gulf.  That production has increased only nominally.  What is fueling America's oil boom is rapid development of more shale drilling in the Dakotas (and the Canadian Plains).  Drilling that is done by "fracking"--the environmental groups' new "public enemy number one"--and an industry that would benefit greatly from the Keystone XL Pipeline that the President refuses to approve.

Lower gas prices also make the public transit options pushed by Liberals less-attractive to more riders.  Walking five blocks to ride the bus for 45-minutes and then walk five blocks to work on the other end in the bitter cold of winter is more amenable when gas is at $4.20 a gallon than it is at $2.60 a gallon when you can drive door-to-door in half the time.  The same goes for using Streetcars and high-speed trains.  With the costs being equal, Americans will almost always choose to drive themselves (usually with crappy music blasting on the radio).  And all those additional drivers again will build support for adding more lane miles in urban areas--as opposed to calls for adding more buses, trains and trolleys.

Lower gas prices will also bring back the full-size SUV.  In fact, General Motors is betting on that--planning to increase production of its larger vehicles in 2015--knowing that when it doesn't cost as much, Americans want as much room as possible in their vehicles.  That will mean more gas usage and increased emissions--a "Green Nightmare" that those on the Left thought they would avoid with the high gas prices we had just a few months ago.

So Liberals can join us for our "party at the pump"--but don't take it the wrong way when we ask you "what the hell are you doing here?"

Thursday, December 18, 2014

We're Getting Punked

Am I the only one with a sneaking suspicion that the controversy surrounding the new movie The Interview is just a ruse--and part of the most-elaborate marketing scheme ever concocted for a new release?

For those who don't watch Entertainment Tonight, E!, Extra, and TMZ Live all in order every night, The new Seth Rogan film is about two half-wit reporters who are granted an interview with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un--and then are recruited by the CIA to kill him.  North Korea has reportedly condemned the movie and demanded it not be released.  That was followed by the "leaking" of Sony Pictures inter-office emails and "anonymous" threats to unleash "9/11 style attacks" on movie theaters that show the film--all allegedly done by North Korean operatives or the government itself.

But if you look at the emails that were "leaked" you don't really find anything that shocking.  Producers think Angelina Jolie is a talentless hack and a spoiled brat?  No surprise there.  (And don't forget that she has a film that she directed--Unbroken--coming out on Christmas day!)  Jennifer Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in the Hunger Games movies?  That just "advances the narrative" about gender pay gaps.  And rich, liberal Hollywood types make racial jokes about President Obama?  We'll put that on page one right under "Dog Bites Man".

And as for the "9/11 style attacks", do we really believe that North Korea has sleeper cell terrorists here in the US ready to rise up and attack movie-goers?  The economic sanctions, the threats to blow their missiles out of the sky and our continued military presence along the border with South Korea don't warrant terrorist action--but a movie does?  All of this is bolstered by "sources" telling the networks (who have ties to Hollywood as well) that the hacking and the threats are coming from North Korea--but the State Department flatly denies having any such information.  Seems to me they would be the first to know about this stuff.

Yesterday, Sony Pictures announced it was NOT going to release The Interview at this time--due of course to the "controversy".  But by doing so, they create "public outcry" for its widespread release.  "We can't let the terrorists win!" will be the rallying cry from those on both the left and the right.  (Who would have ever thought that watching a movie with Seth Rogen playing his usual drunken, pot-head character would become and "act of defiance and patriotism".)  Even the President yesterday encouraged people to "go to the movies"--free advertising and a call to action for an industry that has been struggling outside of sci-fi flicks with huge nerdy fan bases.

So don't be surprised that sometime after The Interview is finally released and does boffo box office numbers that we find out that we have all be had by more "Hollywood Magic".

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Is Barry Bad For Business?

Later today the University of Wisconsin will introduce Paul Chryst as the new Head Football Coach.  Chryst will be the third head coach the program has had in the past four years--following the surprise departures of Bret Bielema to Arkansas and Gary Andersen to Oregon State.  Those resignations have some talking heads and reporters outside of Wisconsin wondering if Athletic Director Barry Alvarez is bad for the Badgers football program.  The belief is that Barry "lords over" the program like some shadowy "Godfather figure" continuing to pull the strings on his "puppets" along the sidelines--and that Bielema and Andersen wanted to be "their own men". 

Barry Alvarez is actually rather unique in major college sports today--a former football coach who has taken over the entire Athletics Department.  Most AD's today have come up through the administrative ranks--they are bean-counters well versed in Title IX, roundtable discussions and the school's "academic mission".  They are more like "Chief Operating Officers".  But coming from the sports side, Barry bring more of "General Manager" approach to the position.  And just like the Packers have been built in the image of what Ted Thompson wants to see--and the Brewers are victims of Doug Melvin's outdated "swing for the fences" mentality--Badger Football will always be predicated upon the Alvarez Model: run the ball, control the time of possession, win the turnover battle.

And consider the results: 3 Big Ten Championships, 2 Heisman Trophy Finalists and the second-most current NFL players of any Big Ten school.  And most importantly--never on probation and banned from post-season play like certain other Big Ten teams.  Would these outside "experts" rather see Wisconsin follow in the path of Michigan--which did everything it could to get away from the Bo Schembechler/Lloyd Carr history of success to plummet to the bottom of the conference trying to run the Spread/Option offense?  Is it better to sell your soul like Ohio State did by bringing in guys like Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer who will lie, cheat and steal to win tainted titles? 

We should also consider the success of UW Athletics beyond Camp Randall Stadium.  The Men's Basketball program is a perennial Sweet 16 team--with the Final Four appearance last year--and a top five ranking this year.  The Men's Hockey team has won a National Championship in the Alvarez Era (although they may be one of the worst teams in the country this year)--and Women's Hockey is among the elite in the NCAA.  The Volleyball team made the National Semi-finals last year in the first year of a coach hired by Alvarez and was in the Elite 8 this year.  Track and Field and Cross Country are among the best in the Big Ten, Women's Softball was re-instated as a varsity sport and has qualified for the NCAA tournament.

Perhaps most-importantly in today's culture, the Athletic Department has ended the fiscal year with a positive balance in the budget for every year of the Alvarez tenure.  

So will Badgers Football under Paul Chryst look a lot like Badgers Football under Barry Alvarez?  Probably.  Will Badgers Football under Paul Chryst be as successful as Badgers Football under Barry Alvarez?  That remains to be seen.  But given the track record, I'd be willing to bet it will.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

All Aboard the Deception Express!!

Today, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett will layout his arguments for construction of a streetcar system in the downtown area for members of the City Council.  Barrett--like nearly all liberals--loves trains (so long as they aren't carrying oil from shale fields) and believes they are the panacea for the city's economic woes--bringing young urban professionals and thousands of high-paying jobs with them (cue the Simpson's "Monorail" clip).

To bolster his argument, Barrett will point to the experience of Portland, Oregon--which has become the darling of streetcar supporter--as it is held up as the perfect example of what a system can be like: high ridership, efficiency and reliability.  Unfortunately, that doesn't actually appear to be the case.

The Oregonian newspaper just last week published the results of an audit (damn auditors, always ruining a great "narrative" with stupid facts and math) showing that the performances of Portland Streetcar are being greatly exaggerated.  The headline writers chose to focus on the 19% inflation of ridership numbers--meaning more than one million fewer people rode the streetcars than the utility claimed.  The same audit found that ridership numbers had been inflated for every year the past five years--but not to the level that was seen last year.

Buried farther in the report is that auditors also found that the 98% on-time claim by Portland Streetcar was also inflated.  The system's own data showed that trains actually arrived on time (which is anything up to five minutes later than the posted time) just 82% of the time.  What's more, the system doesn't even use the computerized system designed to track delays which was put in place back in 2001.

And then buried even farther in the report is a finding by the auditors that operating costs are being understated by nearly 100%.  Portland Streetcar claims to operate its trains on just $160 an hour--the exact number that was demanded of it by city officials.  But the numbers show that it actually costs $323 an hour to run each Streetcar--making it the most expensive form of public transit in the city--compared to $142 per hour for a bus and $188 an hour for non-electric trains.

And then even further in the report we find that the Portland Streetcars are breaking down and experiencing system failures at a much higher rate than expected.  Those cars--produced by United Streetcar right there in Oregon--are the same ones that Mayor Tom Barrett wants to use in Milwaukee.  Fortunately, the braking systems appear to be the only ones to meet expectations so visitors to downtown Milwaukee won't have to worry about dodging out of control Streetcars (cue up the Homer Simpson trying to stop the Monorail clip).

Perhaps the Milwaukee City Council might want to consider just chipping in an buying Mayor Barrett a model train set he can build in his basement and save the city a ton of money.

Monday, December 15, 2014

How Soon They Forget

Last night, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant passed Michael Jordan for third on the all-time NBA career scoring list.  The milestone led to a spirited debate between talking heads both on air and on-line about whether Kobe is now the "greatest player of all time?"

Much of the discussion focused on Kobe's five NBA titles and 32-thousand points--and Jordan's six NBA titles and 32-thousand points.  But missing from the discussion was another player with six NBA titles and SIX-THOUSAND MORE POINTS THAN KOBE AND MJ!!  That would be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Kareem never seems to be mentioned in "Greatest of All Time" discussions.  Maybe it's because he was a center and relied upon others to get him the ball in the low post.  Maybe it's because he played longer than everyone else--and people just assume that he got all of the scoring records due to longevity.  But most likely, Kareem doesn't get his historical due because most of his career came before ESPN, nightly highlight shows and YouTube.

If it isn't in hi-def video, it never happened for people today.  Anyone under 40 probably only remembers Kareem as the guy who was trailing the play while Magic Johnson and James Worthy were leading the Showtime Lakers past everybody.  Anyone under 30 probably never saw Kareem play in a game.  But what they don't seem to remember is that Kareem was one of the most-dominant players in the history of the game.

He was the most-sought-after high school player in the country before choosing to go across the country from New York to attend UCLA.  With the Bruins he lost one game in his entire three years of playing--one game--and he led the Bruins to three straight NCAA titles.  Kareem was so dominant that the NCAA changed the rules to ban dunking because nobody could stop him in the low post--still didn't slow down the Bruins.

In the NBA Kareem unleashed the ultimate, unstoppable offensive move--the Sky Hook--and used it to accumulate most of his 38,387 points.  I've seen pictures of Kareem tossing the Sky Hook over Wilt Chamberlain and David Thompson and dozens of other helpless big men--all jumping and reaching as high as they could--but the ball sailing just past their out-stretched fingers and finding the bottom of the net, again and again and again.

So if you tune over to sports talk radio or TV today and start hearing the Kobe vs Michael talk again, try to remember that "the Black Mamba" would have to average 20-points a game for almost the next FIVE YEARS to catch Kareem.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The New FriendZone

Here's a piece of advice for guys in college today: Don't ever have sex on campus.

One of the other effects of the Rolling Stone-University of Virginia debacle is a new focus on regulations placed upon colleges across the country by the Obama Administration and the Department of Education using Title IX.  Those regulations put into place processes and procedures that rob the accused of their due process and the right to defend themselves against accusations.

Claiming that rape is an "epidemic" on college campuses, the Administration and willing educators have rushed to adopt new policies that work outside of normal police and criminal justice system involvement in investigation of a crime and replace it with self-appointed committees and college employees to investigate claims of rape and administer "justice" themselves.

A student accused of rape by a classmate on campus is subject to questioning by school administrators, is discouraged from retaining an attorney, never gets to question (or in most cases even see the complaint filed by) the accuser and any unwillingness to testify is held against him by those deciding his fate.  None of those involved in the process have forensic investigative training.  None are versed in jurisprudence.  And all of them have been charged not just by their bosses on campus but also by THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES to "do something about rape on campus".  And findings of guilt are based on just a "preponderance of the evidence" (meaning 51% likelihood of being true) rather than being judged "beyond a reasonable doubt".

Compare that to someone accused of rape off-campus by someone who is not a fellow student.  Police--trained in the science of gathering forensic evidence--handle the investigation.  A prosecutor--knowledgeable in the likelihood of finding enough evidence to warrant a trial and conviction--would decide whether to file charges.  A judge would preside over that trial to ensure that the rights of all those involved are protected.  An attorney would defend the suspect and question inconsistencies in testimony along with challenging unacceptable evidence like heresay (e.g. "well I heard from someone that she told them"....) and a jury of the accused's peers would decide if they believe he is guilty beyond the doubt a reasonable person would have.

Supporters of the new college policies argue that "women are at such risk today" that due process needs to be put aside to "assure justice".  They add that the colleges are not conducting criminal investigations--and that expulsion is not nearly as serious as prison time for those found "guilty".  But I'm guessing that "expelled for rape" is no less injurious to a person's reputation as "jailed for rape".  The "rapist" label sticks both ways.

So keep your love life very separate from your school life, guys.  Think of it as an "added layer of protection".

Thursday, December 11, 2014

We Are Better Than That

Whether you want to call it "enhanced interrogation" or "torture", after reading about the techniques described in the Senate Intelligence Committee report I hope that we can all agree that we--as a country--are better than that.  "Rectal rehydration and feeding"--really?  And to make it sound even worse, it was done as much to "show control over the detainees" as it was to actually make sure they stayed alive during a hunger strike.

I understand the use of intimidation and fear in the interrogation process.  I understand the urgency to prevent another 9/11 or another African Embassy Bombing or another USS Cole.  I understand the desire to inflict a little revenge on the people who masterminded all of those terrorist attacks.  I can even understand the argument that you need to "get down to their level" to deal with these barbarians.

But the problem with that is by "getting down to their level", you become no better than the barbarians.  No, we aren't beheading our prisoners.  No, we don't stone women to death, or make them cover themselves from head to toe so that no skin is showing, or force them to marry at the age of 9 or ban them from getting an education or a drivers license.  No, we don't strap bombs to old people to wear into crowded farmers markets.  And we don't hijack planes and fly them into buildings.  But the use of some of the techniques listed in the Committee report make us look just as inhuman.

Personally, I don't care what the people of the Middle East or Europe think of us--or how this report is going to "hurt our global image".  We have saved pretty much everybody's butt from even worse abuses and tyranny at least once and probably twice in the just the past 100-years--so they still owe us big time.  But what I do care about is the standards by which I hold my own Government.  And the actions described this week are not the standards I expect.

So maybe it's a good thing that we expose this ugly side of our nation--and get to work on finding better ways to do things.  Ways more in line with standards we set for ourselves.  And if torture is the only option, might I suggest exposing our detainees to Taylor Swift, One Direction, Miley Cyrus and Iggy Azalea music and media coverage 24-hours a day.  That would likely make even the most hard-core Islamic militant crack.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Defending Your Right to Know

A My Two Cents salute goes out to Door County Advocate reporter Samantha Hernandez today for standing up for the public's right to know what it's elected officials are doing.  Hernandez was given the "thrilling" assignment of covering Monday night's Gibraltar School Board meeting and placed a small recording device on the board table.  This is a common practice among journalists to ensure accuracy in quotations used in stories--and to allow the reporter to review all aspects of a discussion in writing an article.

The recorder on the table was not an issue for the first 15-minutes of the meeting.  But then attorney Mary Gerbig--who was hired by the Gibraltar School Board to advise it on open records matters--suggested that the Board have the recorder removed during the public comments section of the meeting.  Gerbig defended the recommendation saying it was "for purposes of open discussion".

To her credit, Hernandez defended her use of the recorder--pointing out that this was a public hearing.  But Gerbig insisted--issuing a chilling opinion from someone who is supposed to be an "expert" on open records:

"It's a meeting of the Board of Education, and that it's the board's meeting, not a public meeting, these are public comments that are taken by the board (in this) session and that because it is a meeting of the board, there's not been any previous permission to tape a board meeting,

"The board can make a decision down the road if the board would like to tape sessions and that may be something that you'd like to have the board consider, but this is a reporter, and at this point I'm just going to ask that she please remove that from the table."

A non-school board elected official in attendance took the attorney to task for her statement--accusing her of mis-interpreting the state's Open Meetings Laws--and defending Hernandez's right to record the meeting.  And the reporter did not remove the recorder from the table.

While this situation still resulted in the public--through the media--retaining access to the proceedings of their elected officials, it shows the constant battle that reporters have to wage to keep you informed.  I've got several awards on the walls of the Newsroom for exposing open meetings violations right here in Oshkosh (although the violators were never punished).  And the state Court of Appeals found that a Fond du Lac County judge was wrong in banning members of the media from his courtroom for evidentiary hearings--a practice that I had personally objected to on two occasions in separate cases.  Our own School Board here in Oshkosh has adopted a practice of holding a private public hearing before its regularly scheduled meetings (making sure not to have a quorum of members present) so that people wishing to address members "aren't intimidated by the presence of the media (and members can say things off the records as well).

It shouldn't matter if you are the State Legislature drafting the next two year budget--or the Gibraltar School Board accepting the sudden resignation of a popular principal (the issue the attorney didn't want recorded in open session), those elected by the people--and the "experts" they hire to advise them--should always be conducting as much business as possible in full view of the public and the press.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Let It Go, Let It Go!!

Today's musical selection is dedicated to the Packers fans and the local media that treated yesterday's appearance by Brett Favre in Green Bay as a cross between the Papal visit that Mayor Jim Schmitt still believes is going to happen and fangirl-ing over a tour stop by One Direction.


That was followed by links to air traffic control tracking websites where you could follow the progress of Favre's chartered jet in real time!!

The TV stations sent camera crews and reporters to Austin Straubel Airport to film the plane as it landed and to provide video the second Brett stepped off the plane!!

"Lambeau Cam" was turned 180-degrees so that we could get live, streaming coverage of the limo arriving at Brett Favre's Steakhouse!!

Speaking of Mayor Schmitt, he was at the Steakhouse--with his cheesehead on--to officially welcome Brett back to Green Bay!!

Sports talk radio was focused on what type of distraction Brett's return to Green Bay might have on the Packers tonight?!

Reporters wondered what kind of reception will Brett get if his picture is shown on the Jumbotron?  Will the fans cheer?  Will they boo?  Will Aaron Rodgers be jealous or be thrown off of his game?

It was getting so out of hand that the Packers had to issue a statement mid-afternoon saying Favre was not going to be in attendance for the game--and that no ceremony of any kind was planned that night!!

And then the cameras returned to Austin Straubel to film the plane taking off again--and the air traffic control tracker site was back up just to make sure that Brett didn't change his mind (he's been known to do that) and that the jet didn't turn back around toward Green Bay!!

And finally, all of the evening newscasts led off with the Brett was back stories--including one reporter using the terms exciting, excited and excitement seven time in the space of one minute!!

Like Elsa says ,people: Let it Go.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Screw the Facts, We Have a Narrative to Advance Here!!

We have a dangerous word creeping into the vernacular of journalism: "narrative".  In the case of reporters, it involves personally-held beliefs that the writer looks to include in every story he or she writes.  Narrative is used to bolster that reporter's beliefs--and to sway as many people to that line of thinking as possible.  And it was "narrative" that got Rolling Stone magazine into a journalistic disaster this fall.

Reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely went out to show that rape is an epidemic on college campuses--and that school officials are complicit in covering it up.  By her own admission, she went looking for stories of non-prosecuted rape at Ivy League schools like Harvard, Princeton and Columbia--but chose to make the University of Virginia the setting of her story after a campus activist put her in touch with a woman who claimed that seven members of a fraternity gang-raped her two years ago.

In a podcast with the website, Erdely admitted she chose the story of the woman she called "Jackie" because the alleged assault involved members of a fraternity known to include mostly wealthy, white men.  Something she would have found at the Ivy League schools she had earlier searched for the "perfect story".  And while she agreed not to identify any of the alleged assailants by name (or in her fatal flaw: never contacted any of them to verify her source's account of what happened)--Erdely still put the name of the fraternity in the story--opening ALL members of that frat to suspicion and accusation.  A simple internet search will turn up plenty of "rapists" named individually by other people who "know exactly who did this".

Except, it now appears it didn't actually happen.  Or at least not even remotely close to how "Jackie" described it.  And now Rolling Stone is doing some serious back-tracking.  Coming under fire from both those who espouse journalistic ethics and those who advocate for victims of rape as having done irreparable damage to both causes.

But what distresses me the most is a comment from the assistant editor of the UVA student newspaper--Julia Horowitz--who tells "from where I sit in Charlottesville, to let fact checking define the narrative would be a huge mistake".  There you have, from someone who wants to be a future journalist, admission that facts shouldn't get in the way writing what you believe to be true.  If falsely accusing a bunch of rich, white guys of something they didn't do "raises awareness" or "gets people involved" or "forces change"--then their ruined reputations and damaged trust of the public in the honesty of the media is just "collateral damage".

Friday, December 5, 2014

Home Court Advantage

In the days after a grand jury declined to indict a Ferguson, Missouri police officer in the shooting death of Michael Brown everybody all the way up to President Obama demanded that police officers wear body cameras at all times.  The argument was that if there was video evidence of what happened you wouldn't have juries confused by the multiple versions of events that were presented in the Brown case, where 22-witnesses couldn't agree on what happened right in front of them in broad daylight.  If the jurors could see with their own eyes whether or not a suspect tried to grab an officer's gun, or appeared to pull a gun of his own out of his pocket--it would be there in living color--no confusion and easy indictments.

How then do you explain another grand jury's decision not to indict a New York police officer for the choking death of Eric Garner this week?  That incident was caught on video--a video played and replayed thousands of times on all the news channels.  You can clearly see the officers arm around Garner's neck.  You can hear Garner yelling that he can't breathe.  You even see another officer kneel on Garner's head during the eventual arrest.  It's all right there for everyone to see--and yet the grand jury still chose not to indict.

Amanda Taub on the website has an article that claims police credibility--what an officers says he was doing carries more weight than anything we may actually "see" him doing--is the explanation.  Another factor is that even while watching a video of an incident, a juror is always going to see the situation through the prism of "good" and "bad".  The police officer on the screen is the "force for good"--and the suspect being choked, or beaten or shot is "the criminal". 

Remember, in both of these cases, the grand juries were presented with background on what led to the incidents in question.  In the case of Michael Brown, he was accosted by the police officer because he matched the description of someone who had stolen cigars from a convenience store earlier in the day.  In the Garner case, he was (again) selling cigarettes illegally on the street.  It was also mentioned that he had a history of resisting arrest. But what if grand juries were presented with just the circumstances of the fatal or injurious incidents themselves--seeing them in more of a vacuum than as the end result of a criminal act?  Even that might not help--as officers will still be wearing their uniforms that distinguish them as the "good guys".

And don't forget that police can be very persuasive in explaining every nuance of their actions.  You may recall an incident in Green Bay this year where an officer took a drunk guy who had been yelling at him during the arrest of another drunk guy to the ground and punched him several times while he appeared to not be resisting arrest.  That too was captured on video and initially led to calls for the firing of the officer.  But the Green Bay PD and the Brown County District Attorney put on a 40-minute multi-media presentation that featured additional camera angles, a briefing on police submission techniques and training and a blow-by-blow description of what the officer thought was happening and the reason that he responded the way he did.  Michael Brown and Eric Garner could never have put on such a presentation--because there is no training course for "defending yourself against an officer" and they are both dead.

So if anyone thinks the millions of dollars that the Obama Administration is proposing to spend this week on outfitting thousands of police officers with body cameras is going to "turn the tide"--you are sadly mistaken.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Some Benefit

A few days ago I got something in the mail that said it was "INFORMATION ON YOUR NEW EMPLOYEE BENEFITS!!"  It even featured the logo of my employer, Cumulus Broadcasting on the outside.  I was a bit worried because having just completed our annual enrollment, I knew that I had not signed up for any "new benefits"--and this mailer certainly didn't appear to have anything to do with my 401(k), my High Deductible-Health Savings Account insurance plan, dental insurance or Long Term Disability insurance.

It turned out that the mailer wanted me to know that I was now enrolled in a "great program" that will "allow me to purchase great brand name merchandise" for "affordable monthly payments".  The best part? My job at Cumulus Broadcasting "is my credit".  I may have missed it somewhere in there--but this will likely "help me rebuild my credit!" as well--having "damaged" it by paying off my credit cards, student loans, vehicle loans and even my mortgage.

Now as someone who is on the Dave Ramsey Plan--and who has not had consumer debt in seven years--and who has been completely debt-free for two years--I find it a bit insulting that my employer would "enroll" us in a rent-to-own type of scheme.  I'm sure some of my co-workers will be drawn in by the temptation of suddenly being able to "afford" a 60-inch Hi-Def TV for a "mere" $50 a month--for five years--never once considering the exorbitant interest rate that they are being charged.  It actually reminds me of the old "Company Store" concept that miners dealt with back in the early 1900's--where their paycheck was already spent on provisions sold to them by their employer by the time they got it--trapping them in their job.  Perhaps that is Cumulus' strategy here--keep the sword of debt hanging over us to keep us in line.

Now if my bosses really wanted to offer a "benefit", I could just give them a list of items I would like to buy and then they could give me the extra money every month to put into savings--until I have enough to buy those items!  Not only would that be interest-free--but I could also buy them when they are on sale--making it an even better value!  Now that would be a real "benefit".

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What Do You Mean "Dark" Side of the Force?

Forget Michael Brown and "Hands Up Don't Shoot"--we have a new racial controversy in America: Black Stormtroopers in the new Star Wars movie.  Director JJ Abrams released a "teaser" trailer of Star Wars Episode VII--The Force Awakens on the internet last week which should have given us long-time fans reason to celebrate.  But instead, the release was overshadowed by the social media firestorm created by a split-second shot of a black man in Stormtrooper armor.

The tidal wave of negative accusations that Abrams was "playing to racial stereotypes" by casting a black man as the bad guy sapped all of the excitement out of finally getting to see some footage from the eagerly-anticipated new flick.  Nevermind that the image is shown completely out of context and we have no idea how or why this actor is in that costume.  Let's not forget that in the original Star Wars Episode IV--A New Hope, both Luke Skywalker and Han Solo donned similar Stormtrooper costumes to access the Death Star cellblock to rescue Princess Leia.  That certainly didn't make them "villains" did it?  My favorite argument was "everyone knows Stormtroopers are clones of a white guy!!"

The blowback became so extreme that the actor himself--John Boyega (who is British by the way--so I guess his politcally-correct racial identification would be African-English?) also had to take to social media to tell everyone to chill out.

This is not the first time that the Star Wars film series has come under fire from those on the Left.  The original three films were criticized for their lack of Black actors.  The three prequel films were questioned for the "semi-Ebonics-type" language used by the hated character Jar Jar Binks.  So JJ Abrams had to know that he was going to face similar over-the-top reactions to his casting in the next three films.

But that is where we are now in America, where the slightest possibility that a Black person might be cast as a "bad guy" in a fictional movie sets off a "racial controversy".  So good luck fixing anything involving real humans.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Not What He Had In Mind

In the late 1800's and early 1900's, Andrew Carnegie gave away tens of millions of dollars of his own money to establish thousands of public libraries across the country.  Until then, book were a rarity in people's homes--as they were expensive and were not published in the numbers that they are today.  Personal book collections were for the rich only.  But Carnegie wanted to provide the information--and the power--contained in books to the general masses, and he realized public libraries were the way to do it.  He insisted that facilities he funded featured "open stacks"--meaning people could browse and select their reading materials instead of asking a librarian to go through "closed stacks" kept behind the circulation desk to get a book.  It was a revolutionary change that turned the US into a country of voracious readers and writers.

Carnegie's library model worked well for a hundred years--until the Digital Age completely changed the way people consume information.  Books and magazines can be accessed through e-readers, tablets and the internet--without having to visit the library or bookstore.  The research volumes taking up rows of racks can now be searched instantly on-line and nearly all of the information that Carnegie opened up to the masses with his public library is available at your fingertips through your phone.  It's another revolution that has "rekindled" (pun somewhat intended) America's love for reading.

But that leaves the Public Library in limbo.  It's core function--to serve as a resource of information for all--has basically been usurped by the internet--which is more convenient, faster and more comprehensive than any brick and mortar library could ever hope to be.  So that has many libraries moving away from what their original intent was and into fields that are somewhat questionable use of public dollars.  Take the new East Branch of the Milwaukee Public Library--which features a fireplace in its "reading and reflection room" along with 99 apartment units.  That's right, in Milwaukee you can now live at the Library (a dream come true for all of the homeless people who currently reside at our libraries during business hours).  The proposed Appleton Public Library on the bluffs overlooking the Fox River will feature "ample public meeting space" and an expanded children's activity area.

Is that really what a Public Library should be about?  Fireplaces?  Meeting rooms?  Kids play areas?  I guess those are easier to sell to big money donors than the "Mr and Mrs John Smith E-Book Download Section of the Library Website".  It's time to have a discussion about what we want our libraries to be in the Digital Age--a discussion they could have had in Appleton had the project gone up for referendum as some aldermen wanted.  Otherwise, we will likely end up with monuments to old and expensive ways to do things--sort of like the Post Office.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Reason Why I Hate Replay #6,437,233

We Americans hate when people benefit by breaking the rules.  That distaste even applies when someone breaks the rules to catch someone else breaking the rules.  Such activity can get important pieces of evidence thrown out in a court of law.  And that is why the end of yesterday's Cincinnati Bengals-Tampa Bay Buccaneers game should leave a bad taste in everyone's mouth.

In case you didn't see it, Tampa trailed by one in the waning seconds of the game when they completed a pass to get into field goal range.  As the Bucs were lining up to spike the ball and to stop the clock so they could run their kicking unit onto the field, Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis threw the red challenge flag--stopping play.  Lewis wanted the refs to go to replay, as he thought Tampa had 12-men on the field during the previous play.

The only problem is that the replay rule specifically states that a coach cannot throw the red challenge flag during the last two minutes of the game--as all reviews must come from the Replay Official in the booth during that time.  But by illegally throwing the flag--and requiring the referee to explain that Cincinnati was not allowed to challenge the previous play--Lewis caused a delay in the action that allowed the Replay Official to buzz the on-field officials to request a review.  And as it turned out, the Buccaneers did in fact have 12-players on the field for the key completion.  So the big play gets wiped out by the ill-gotten replay challenge and, of course, Tampa never gets back into field goal range--so Cincy wins because their head coach blatantly broke the rules.

Until last year, the "illegal throwing of the challenge flag" penalty was loss of review of the play.  But because former Lions Head Coach Jim Schwartz was an idiot and threw the flag even though officials were stopping the game to review the play, it was changed this off-season to either penalize a team a time out--or 15-yards for unsportsmanlike conduct if they did not have a timeout.  And who sits on the Competition Committee--which came up with that new penalty?  None other than Cincinnati Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis--who benefited directly from that change in a game that keeps his team's playoff hopes alive!!  What a coincidence!  In fact, the CBS broadcast crew lauded Lewis for his "quick thinking" and knowledge that breaking the challenge flag rule would not hurt his team--given the game-situation.

Now, because he had a timeout, Lewis--or any Bengals player on the field--could have gone the "legal" route to stop the game.  And if he had, today's My Two Cents would be about public libraries going way beyond what they were designed to be only to justify their continued existence.  But instead, he chose to intentionally break the rules for his own benefit--even through Tampa broke the rules first.  And as we all know, two wrongs don't make it right.