Thursday, December 31, 2015

Stop Putting This Off

Usually, I don't do New Year's resolutions.  It's not that I think that I'm perfect and that there is nothing upon which I can improve.  It's just that I know behavior does not change overnight just because a calendar page turns over and it's a new year.  But in 2016 I do plan to address my biggest weakness: I am a chronic procrastinator.

For some reason, I cannot get important things done until the last minute.  Here in the electronic media, "deadline" to get a story done or an interview completed is the next half-hour--so there is that constant feeling of "I need to get this done right away".  But that gives me "mental permission" to push off other things that might not need to be completed until tomorrow, or next week or sometime in the next month.  And what invariably happens?  Those things don't get done until they absolutely have to.

But sometimes, they don't get done at all--because some other "emergency" came up in the window of opportunity to complete the project--and the next thing you know, you've missed the deadline on the project you once had days or months to complete.  One of the biggest challenges to overcoming procrastination is not having that feeling of "pressure" to get something done when you are not racing the clock.  It's almost like a shot of adrenaline.

Ok, so if I'm going to do something to better my life, I'm going to ask you to do the same.  And my challenge for you is to get your financial lives in order.  We are slowly moving toward an improved economy--and with it the opportunity to put more money in your pocket.  Rather than spending all of that with an extra cup of overpriced drive-thru coffee--why not put that money to work for your retirement?  Or your child's college education?

I know you've been meaning to put together a budget, or to meet with your "financial guy" or to set up that Educational Savings Account--but you've been putting it off (sound familiar?).  So instead of being one of those people who overrun the fitness clubs next week (only to disappear by the end of the month)--be the person that fills up the waiting room at a financial advisor and make 2016 the year to get out of debt and save for the future.

If you need a little help, you can tune into the Dave Ramsey Show here on WOSH from 2-5 weekdays for some positive re-inforcement.  Oh--and don't say you'll start doing that....tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Best of 2015

This week is filled with lists of the "biggest news stories" or the "most fascinating people" or "top moments" of the year.  Rather than rehash all of that here, I thought I would share the three best moments of 2015 for me.

Number Three: When the Wisconsin Badgers beat the previously-undefeated Kentucky Wildcats in the NCAA National Semi-Finals.  I tried hard to remember that night while watching this season's Badgers struggle to score against Purdue at home in last night's loss.  This would have been moment 3B if Wisconsin would have held on to beat Duke in the National Championship game two nights later.

Number Two:  This scene after the third round of the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits:

This was on the way to the scoring area where Jordan Spieth was met by his younger sister Ellie.  Spieth had just shot a 65--including five birdies in his last eight holes--to move into second and get into the final group with Jason Day on Sunday.  But that hug from Ellie--who is cognitively disasbled--was the highlight of his day (and for those of us lucky enough to be back there). 

And the Number One Best Moment of 2015: The afternoon my wife and I spent at Polihale State Park on Kauai.

A few years ago, my mother-in-law passed away.  She wanted to be cremated--with some of her ashes spread in Hawaii.  In planning for our 10th anniversary trip to the islands, I looked for a place where we could do that.  I didn't want it to be somewhere thousands of people would be trampling every day--but someplace quiet, beautiful and special.  I read about Polihale--which is where the 1000-foot tall Na Pali Cliffs end--and where 15-miles of uninterrupted golden-sand beach begins.

It's one of the most amazing places on Earth--and few people ever see it--as only way to get there is to take a five mile, pot-holed and muddy cane road that the rental car companies want you to stay off and a two would cost you a month's pay.  But we made the trek out there.

Right away, my wife knew this was the perfect spot for her Mom's ashes.  And to see the smile on her face as she returned from the private moment at the point where the cliffs met the beach was far and away the best moment of 2015.

I tried to keep that in mind while I spent an hour and a half trying to clear the snow from my driveway yesterday. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Social Injustice of Marriage

The "Social Justice" warriors may have a new reason to hate rich people: they almost always marry other rich people.  This week, the New York Times ran an article on the study of "assortive mating"--or what we commonly like to call "Power Couples"--and how their marriages "foster income inequality" in American society.

The study finds that high-earners are more likely to marry other high earners.  And that the children of these marriages are pre-disposed to better performance in school--meaning a greater likelihood of becoming high-income earners themselves--who will then marry other high-earners, continuing the cycle.

To most folks that would make sense--people tend to marry the types of people they spend the most time with--and if you are in the corporate boardroom, or the high rise office or you hang out at the wine bar uptown, that is where you are most likely to find dates and spouses.  Just like those of us who met our spouses at working class bars that have dollar beer nights.  It's also why you have modern fairy tale movies like Maid in Manhattan, Pretty Woman and She's All That forever finding a home on Lifetime movie channel--where the rich man falls in love with the poor girl and sweeps her into a life of luxury.

While we heard repeatedly during the fight for same-sex marriage equality that people should be allowed to "marry whomever they want"--the Social Justice crowd sees "assortive mating" as a problem that will be (as the author of the article put it) "hardest to counter".  What exactly does that mean to "counter" a marriage?  Will President Bernie Sanders use an executive order to institute a new "Marriage Tax"?  Will "Progressive" state legislatures limit the total assets a couple can bring into a marriage?  Will public school curriculum require books on dating and marriage to feature only couples from differing "socio-economic groups" as an acceptable pairing?

I guess parents across America should be glad to see their corporate executive daughters bring home the unemployed convicted felons who still live with their mothers for the holidays.  Their "little girls" are doing their part to ensure "Social Justice".

Monday, December 28, 2015

If You're Gonna Go At the King, You Best Not Miss

I hope for Al Jazeera America's sake they are willing to stand by the less-than-reputable sources they used for their documentary on illegal use of Human Growth Hormones and prescription painkillers in the NFL--because all hell is going to be raining down upon them.  Peyton Manning--whom the report claims purchased HGH through his wife from the Indianapolis clinic--is already saying he will sue for defamation.  Three Packers named in the story as well--Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers and Mike Neale--all issued denials as well (although Neale did use the old "I can neither confirm nor deny" line with reporters on Sunday).

The problem with producing a truly bullet-proof type of report on steroid and painkiller abuse like this is that the people you need to talk to about it are pretty scummy themselves.  Many have criminal records.  They don't keep business records--as a way of protecting their clients--and they can be paid off to later recant or even lie under oath if matters are ever brought before a court.  And that has been the defense nearly all of the major American sports have used to fend off previous attempts to document drug use by players.  Remember the lowlifes involved in the Barry Bonds case? 

About the only thing sports fans are willing to accept are positive drug tests administered by the leagues themselves--which the drug suppliers know they can beat most of the time.  But even then--as was the case with Ryan Braun--fans (and the media) are willing to give the player the benefit of the doubt if he makes strong enough denials (or makes up stuff about being framed by an anti-Semitic, Cubs fan urine sample handler).

In the case of the NFL, spreading around the billions generated by the sport provides insulation from prying eyes as well.  There's a reason Al Jazerra America was willing to go public with an hour-long special on football players using hormones and painkillers--because their is no Thursday night, or Saturday night, or Sunday afternoon, or Sunday night or Monday night football on Al Jazeera America.  And there was likely never going to be--so what did that network (and its parent corporation) have to lose by taking a shot at the King of All Sports?

And what will be the response of sports fans even if all of the allegations contained in the documentary are true?  A slight roll of the eyes before logging back onto their fantasy football website to see who are the "best picks" for this week's games.  NFL fans just plain don't care if their favorites are on the juice or are using painkillers without a doctor's prescription.  Just so long as they are out there "scoring points for them" is all that matters.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The REAL Carol of the Bells

I've seen plenty of on-line polls asking "What is the worst Christmas song of all time?"  For me the answer is easy: Carol of the Bells by Trans-Siberian Orchestra

I can't stand more than ten seconds of the dreck--with the 53 synthesizer tracks, the electric violin overdubs and the horrendous guitar parts.  There is a reason why this over-the-top edition of the song is so popular with the people who synchronize their Christmas lights to music every winter.

However, buried underneath all of the bombast and fake artistry of TSO is an incredibly beautiful song--played the right way--by pianist George Winston

It's amazing how much less is often much better at this time of year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


It's December 23rd and you know what that means, IT"S FESTIVUS!!  And now is the time for the annual AIRING OF THE GRIEVANCES in which I tell you all of the ways you have disappointed me in the past year.  As usual, I HAVE A LOT OF PROBLEMS WITH YOU PEOPLE!!







Now it is time for the Feats Of Strength.  Remember, Festivus is not over until you pin me!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Truth Nobody Wants to Admit

Want to start an argument?  The next time someone asks you what your favorite Christmas movie is tell them it's Die Hard.  Invariably, you will get a look of disbelief from the asker of the question and the standard reply "Die Hard isn't a Christmas movie!!"  And while they may feign disgust with your reply, deep down they know the truth: Die Hard is about Christmas as much as pretty much any other "Holiday" movie is.

First off, Die Hard takes place on December 24th--Christmas Eve.  Second, why is Bruce Willis' character--John McClain--at the office tower at the time of the terrorist takeover?  To attend his estranged wife's Christmas party.  Third, what do McClain and the LA cop bond over while talking on the walkie-talkie?  Spending Christmas with the kids.  Fourth, how is Bonnie Bedelia's character blown?  By the TV station airing the interview with her kids asking her to come home for Christmas.  Fifth, what does McClain use to conceal the handgun behind his back before shooting Hans out the window to his death? Santa Clause masking tape.  And finally, what is playing as the credit roll?  Christmas music.

Say hello to a modern Christmas classic, my friends.

My wife watches the Hallmark and Lifetime movie channels almost non-stop at this time of year--which means I catch my fair share of these horrible films with repeating plot lines and in many cases--the same handful of actors--over and over again.  And the only difference between those and the movies usually shown on those channels is that all of the action (or lack there of) takes place at the end of December--just like Die Hard.

And a common plot device of those movies is stolen from Die Hard 2--in which airports across the country are closed by a major snow storm.  In the "holiday movies" this allows the two main character to find the other is their true love and not the lame boyfriend or girlfriend they can't get to by plane.  In Die Hard 2 it provided cover for the terrorist to flee the country--until John McClain blows up their plane--providing guidance to all of the planes about to fall out of the sky due to fuel starvation (including his wife's).

So forget It's a Wonderful Life, or Holiday Inn or Santa Claus vs The Martians this year.  Pop Die Hard into the bluray player and let the family enjoy some real action for Christmas.  There's even a happy ending.

Yippee ki yay mother.............

Monday, December 21, 2015

Odds and Ends

I would like to thank my fellow moviegoers Saturday morning for an excellent theater experience.  I'm guessing it was the 8:00 am showtime that kept the younger folks away from the Star Wars: The Force Awakens screening I attended--as it was nearly all middle-aged folks like myself filling the theater that morning.  There was nobody on their cellphones talking loudly before the feature.  I was about 3/4 of the way back and I didn't see the glow of smartphones in front of people's faces once the movie started.  There were no attempts at humor with any catcalls or editorial comments during the screening.  And I don't remember seeing anyone get up--go to the concession stand--come back--get up--go to the bathroom--and come back again either.  We all came to watch our favorite movie--and that is what we did.  And when those in line for the next screening asked how it was, nobody yelled out spoilers or trolled everyone by saying it "sucked--go home--don't waste your money" (it definitely didn't suck).  It would be interesting to see if a theater could make it by having just "adult" movie screenings for blockbusters so we can all enjoy such an "old-fashioned" experience.

I would also like to thank the people out shopping later on Saturday for the respect they showed for each other during the absolute worst day of the year to be anywhere near a shopping center.  Twice, people who had loads of items at the checkout allowed me to skip ahead--as I had just a gift card to purchase.  And where lines were long, there was still amiable chatter among shoppers knowing we were all stuck in the same boat.  (Now, for some people I encountered in the parking lots of said stores--you get your mention on Wednesday during the annual FESTIVUS AIRING OF THE GRIEVENCES!!)

And finally, thank you to Steve Harvey for providing us with the best television moment of 2015--giving the Miss Universe crown to the wrong contestant last night.  I didn't see this live (I was already in bed) but an overnight check of my Twitter timeline showed it to be about the only thing people wanted to talk about (except the woman running over pedestrians outside the same hotel in Las Vegas a few minutes later).  I can understand how Steve got mixed up--since pageants have this ridiculous tradition of naming second and first runner ups instead of third and second and first place.  And for those who say they "feel so bad for Miss Colombia" what exactly did she lose?  A chance to follow in the footsteps of other great Miss Universes like........uh........did Ivana Trump win this and get a marriage to Donald as part of the package?  The pageant could have gone off the air, issued a short press statement saying there had been a mistake on stage a few minutes later, and none of you would have noticed--even when a different woman came out wearing the crown at the start of next year's pageant.  Instead, Steve tried to fix it on "international TV"--and ended up looking like a clown.  I'm just glad that the decision made by the likes of former NFL running back Emmitt Smith as to who is the most beautiful woman in the world was ultimately upheld.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Force Awakens

My breakfast on Saturday will consist of a giant tub of popcorn and a Dr Pepper large enough to sustain a camel for a trans-Saharan trek.  I will be attending an 8:00 AM screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens--the earliest time that my work/sports officiating schedule would allow me.  I am currently on a social media boycott in order not to have some jerk spoil all of the plotlines before I can get to the theater.

For most die-hard Star Wars fans, this has been a 32-year wait for the continuation of the Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia storyline.  While the three "prequel" movies put out in the early 2000's did give us the background story on the rise of Darth Vader, they were sadly disappointing in a number of ways.  George Lucas was admittedly hamstrung by the fact that we all knew how the prequels would end--but the production relied way too much on computer generated effects so that they lacked the "human element" of the original movies.  Add to that a very slow pace--like Lucas didn't really have enough story to fill out three movies--the introduction of some pointless characters (Jar Jar Binks) and stiff acting by pretty much everyone involved, and it was clear that some new blood needed to come in and resurrect the franchise.

Enter JJ Abrams--a self-described Star Wars nut--to take us 30-years farther along in our story.  Unrestricted by any set storyline, Abrams had incredible freedom to take The Force Awakens in whatever direction he thought was best.  And by all accounts, he has returned to what made the first three movies great--real sets, less CGI magic and more action. 

So why does a 43-year old guy (and millions just like me) get so excited about this stuff?  For the same reason our ancestors loved to sit around the fire at night and tell stories of demi-gods fighting multiple-headed monsters.  Star Wars is our modern mythology.  And who cannot relate to the internal struggle between good and evil--knowing that everyone has a little of both lying within them.  And the original trilogy was about my favorite plot line--redemption.  The hope that even in the worst villain, there is still some good that wins out in the end.

Now it's time to get your popcorn, put your feet up and get ready to enjoy a good story---one that we don't know the ending to this time.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Viva El Nino!!

With all apologies to Bing Crosby, I will not be joining him in dreaming of a White Christmas this year.  Barring a substantial change in the long-range forecast, it appears we will not be getting any substantial snowfall in the next week.  And I could not be any happier.

As I have been saying all month, "You don't have to shovel rain".  And it has been nice not to have to bundle up like you are going on an Arctic expedition just to take out the garbage.  But the benefits of a "Green Christmas" don't stop there.

It makes for a much safer holiday season as well.  No need to worry about hitting a patch of black ice while heading over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house.  And no need to worry about the older folks slipping and falling while walking up your driveway.  Plus, there are far fewer heart attacks from trying to clear wet, heavy snow from the sidewalk.

A Green Christmas could also mean more gifts under the tree this year, too.  When "Santa" gets a $100 break on the home heating bill, he might spend it on the kids or the wife.  And when you throw in the lowest gas prices in seven years--fueling up "the sleigh" is much cheaper as well.

And the best part of having no snow is that it makes over-the-top yard displays--you know the one's I'm talking about, where the 3/4 scale size nativity scene where each of the figures lights up is surrounded by Santa and all eight reindeer, an inflatable Frosty the Snowman that is in a perpetual state of deflation and therefore is just laying on the ground and every edge of the house is lined with colored lights while icicle lights, not to mention the rotating holiday message display projected onto the garage door--look even more ridiculous.

So this year let's celebrate not have to run gifts and boxes to the vehicle in a cloud of our own exhaled breath.  Let's not worry about tracking in that gross black water with our shoes onto the floor at other people's houses.  And let's replace Feliz Navidad with a new song: Viva El Nino!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

It's Deja Vu All Over Again

When my phone started blowing up with alerts and text messages just after 10:00 last night, I knew something major was happening.  I just didn't expect it to be the immediate retirement of Badgers Basketball Head Coach Bo Ryan.  After quickly joining the streaming coverage of the post game press conference, I couldn't help but feel a sense of deja vu--as Badgers fans have really been here before.

Bo's mid-season departure marks the final similarity between his career arc and that of his predecessor in Madison--Dick Bennett.  Both won WIAC titles--Bennett at UW-Stevens Point, Bo at UW-Platteville.  Both made it to small school national championship games--Dick losing in the NAIA finals back in the '80's, Bo winning three NCAA Division III titles.  Both moved on to one of the "satellite" UW programs--Bennett at UW-Green Bay, Ryan at UW-Milwaukee.  Dick made it to 3 NCAA Tournaments with the Phoenix.  Bo never took the Panthers to the big dance--but all of the kids he recruited brought Bruce Pearl success in the Big Dance that he parlayed into big-time job offers (and failure).

And after paying their dues in the hinterlands, Bennett and Ryan were both finally selected to lead the Badgers.  It took Dick five years to get Bucky into the Final Four.  Bo needed a little bit longer--making it there after 13-seasons--but then taking the most-talented team in program history there in back-to-back years and missing out on a National Championship due to Duke getting all of the calls in the second half (no, I am not still bitter).

And those career arcs both ended the same way--with Bennett and Ryan leaving part-way through a post-Final Four season.  Dick retired after a Big Ten-ACC Showdown win over Virginia that was played at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee for some stupid reason.  Bo hung up the whistle last night after a sluggish win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.  And both retired the way they did for the same reason: they wanted long-time assistants to succeed them--and because UW-Madison officials like to follow rules like posting a job for x-number of months and interviewing minority candidates, the "appointed successor" thing doesn't fly down there.

So now Greg Gard tries to avoid the same career arc as Dick Bennett's mid-season successor--Brad Soderberg.  Soderberg took what was basically the same team that had made the Final Four the year before and lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Georgia State--and then was shown the door.  Who was hired to replace him?  Bo Ryan.

Hopefully, Athletic Director Barry Alvarez didn't delete Tony Bennett's number from his phone.  In a way, that would bring this whole thing full circle, don't you think?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Haters Gonna Hate

When did we as a society decide that all recognition of personal achievement was going to be met with derision and outrage?  The latest example came Monday after Sports Illustrated named Serena Williams as its "Sportsperson of the Year" for 2015.  Williams was the dominant force in women's tennis this year.  Winning the first three Grand Slam events before losing in a shocking upset in the semi-finals at the US Open to fall just short of a slam.  For the season, she went 55-3--never losing before the semis of any event.  And she did it at the age of 34--in a sport usually dominated by teens and twenty-somethings.

But based on the social media and sports talk feedback--you would have thought that Serena had played just one match for the entire year and lost that in straight sets.  One argument was that Novak Djokovic had a better tennis year than Williams--as he also won three of the four Grand Slam titles--losing the fourth in the Finals--and he went 82-6 in singles this year.  But he is 28--and in the prime of his career.

And then you had those who believed that American Pharoah didn't win the award.  They made their impassioned pleas to consider that he won the first Triple Crown in 37-years plus the Breeder Cup.  But let's be honest, if you were to take away gambling, horse racing would be deader than dead and maybe ten people would show up to watch races.  What's more, it's the Sportsperson of the Year award--not Sportsanimal.  I highly doubt American Pharoah is "disappointed" he didn't win the title.

The only other athlete I could see as matching Serena this year was golfer Jordan Spieth--who won the first two majors--then missed out on a playoff at the British Open by just one shot--and then finished second (albeit a distant second) to Jason Day at the PGA Championships at Whistling Straits.  Plus he won the Tour Championship and the $10-million FedEx Cup Playoffs to set a single season money earning record--all at the age of 22.  And unlike Serena, he had to beat 136-guys a week--not just the six or so in a draw.  But still, he'll have plenty of chances to compete again in the future.

But the real "outrage" was saved for the cover of the magazine--in which Serena is looking hot in a short black dress while sitting on a throne.  That got the feminists all worked up--as to them, Serena was being treated as "just another sex object".  Nevermind that Miss Williams herself signed off on the photo shoot and likely selected her apparel herself--as she considers herself and her sister, Venus, to be "fashion mavens".  Nonetheless, it gave the trolls more to complain about.

Serena Williams had a great year late in a perhaps the greatest career in her sport's history--all while breaking down barriers (real and perceived).  Can't we just be happy for someone who has achieved so much--and is comfortable with who they are?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Lucy and the Football

That big tease--Federal Reserve Board Chairperson Janet Yellen--is back this week taunting us "savers" again.  For weeks now we have heard "The Fed has to raise interest rates this time!"  And so those of us with cash in reserve think we might finally see savings, CD and Money Market rates go above a measly one-percent for the first time in about seven years.

Well I'm not falling for it this time around.  Janet Yellen should change her name to "Lucy" and be sitting out on our front lawn holding a football and telling us that "this time I really will let you kick the ball, Charlie Brown!"  We've heard the promises before--but every meeting of the Fed results in a decision to "maintain current rates due to weakness in the economy".  In the past its been a downturn in the Stock Market, or weak hiring numbers, or high gas and energy prices, or the potential collapse of Democratic Socialist economies in Europe, or a recession in China.

Until this morning, everyone was confident this would be the month where rates are nudged up slightly.  But now there is concern about low commodity prices and a weak equities market--so the chance remains that money will remain cheap--and football will be pulled away from "savers" again.

Why don't we just admit that the new, new, new economy is predicated on Americans and their Government living far beyond their means?  We as a nation have reduced our personal debt levels by just 12% since the high point of 2008--during a time when borrowing money was cheaper than it had ever been before.  And if you listen to the 0% zealots, you would think the only solution to our economic malaise is to pile all of that debt right back on us.

Let's be honest, debt is a powerful political tool.  When people are in over their heads, they live in fear of that layoff notice or that entitlement program being cut.  Both sides of the political spectrum play to the fear by saying the other wants to take away those sources of income--leaving you without that house that you apparently couldn't afford in the first place.  Real ownership (clear of all debt) and self-funding for economic disaster is a very powerful thing--which lessens the impact fear-mongerers can conjure up on the campaign trail.  So saving is discouraged--and profligate spending is encouraged--to keep us in a well-entertained and toy-filled hole.

Perhaps Janet Yellen and her crew will stop teasing us this week and increase interest rates--setting us back on a course where savers are rewarded for their self-control--and those burning through their cash actually feel the impact.  Or we'll just have the football pulled away from us again.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

You May As Well Play To Win

Regular listeners know that I am not at all a fan of Christmas.  I will always believe that this whole gift-giving and going to see the family thing should be held on July 4th because our independence as a country is something we can all celebrate and it's much warmer at that time of year. 

My disgust with Christmas this year got a real early start as Verizon decided to ruin Thanksgiving by renaming it "ThanksGETTING" in their pre-Black Friday ad campaign.  As if heading to the store to buy things for others on a day that should be spent actually talking with your family members wasn't bad enough--Verizon wanted you to go out on Thanksgiving to buy a bunch of stuff for yourself.

And now Best Buy is killing me with their "Win the Holidays" ad campaign--where mothers are buying the perfect high-priced electronics to put under the tree--making them the only one worthy of their children's love.  It's odd that we can no longer celebrate being faster, smarter, more successful or even just-plain luckier than someone else in today's society--but competitive gift-giving is okay.  I'm surprised that Best Buy isn't providing free trophies to everyone who purchases certain items--or exceeds a minimum amount of merchandise to prove that they are in fact "Winning the Holidays".

There is one bright spot in the holiday season so far--and that is the ad from Dick's Sporting Goods called "Give the Gifts That Matter".  It opens with a boy looking all excited about getting a fire truck for Christmas--which then gets pitched into a box with dozens of other toys and the banner "Some gifts are quickly forgotten".  That is compared to a portable basketball hoop that is set up in the driveway and the banner "And some last for a lifetime".  Then you have a crying little girl who has broken the arm off of her new doll with the banner "Some gifts will break your heart"--which is compared to a man tying up new running shoes and hitting the streets with the banner "Others break records".  That is followed by a shot of a guy sitting on his couch with a video game controller and the words "Some games are meant to be played alone"--compared to a couple that has hiked up a hill to enjoy overlooking some water and the phrase "While others you will want to share" and then a family skiing with "With family and friends".  The spot plays out with a family playing football in the yard and a little boy being tucked into bed wearing his Packers jersey--and Dicks holiday slogan "Give the Gifts That Matter".

I'm sorry, Best Buy, but giving the gift of activity, team-building, health and valuable life lessons would really be "winning the holidays".

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Reality Show Candidate

I have to give Donald Trump credit for one thing: he certainly learned a lot from the producers and script writers for his "reality show" The Apprentice.  He is taking the formula developed for successful TV programming and turning it into a successful (for the moment) Presidential campaign.  And nobody seems to know how to "counter-program" that.

Think about what makes a popular TV show today: Over-the-top manufactured drama, "characters" that straddle the line of good and bad, and the ability to top last week's "shocker" with a "bigger one" next week.  It works for the Real Housewives series, the Kardashians and The Bachelor.

And now it is working for Donald Trump in the reality series that is the 2016 Race for the White House.  When there is no controversy in the race--he goes out and creates it on his own.  And each incident has managed to top the previous effort.  "Will he or won't he run?" was followed by "Everybody else is a loser", was followed by "The other candidates are ugly and stupid" was followed by "Don't let the refugees in" was followed by "Ban all the Muslims".  Each decried by Republican Party hierarchy and the media, each resulting in a bump in Trump's polling numbers.  In fact, the only time we've seen Trump's popularity dip has been when the campaign has focused on actual issues--a tune out factor for today's "reality audience".

Another lesson Trump has learned well is to get all the free publicity you can.  While the rest of the field is paying to get the majority of their air time, Trump is calling in to every TV morning show in the country to get into shouting matches with the hosts--more manufactured drama--which is then rehashed and replayed endlessly in 24-hour news cycle.  And what is the only thing every other candidate is talking about?  Trump.  ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and CNN may as well be TMZ, ET and E! reporting on the latest Miley Cyrus pictures or Kardashian family crisis--they are all being used for promotional purposes.

There is a built-in problem with reality shows--eventually, you can't create more fake drama to top the last fake drama--or things become so ludicrous that the "characters" become "caricatures" and even the most die-hard fans lose interest.  And that is the challenge that lies ahead of Donald Trump The Reality Show Candidate:  How do you keep topping yourself for another 11-months?  Stay tuned for the "Most Shocking Stump Speech Yet"!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Frenemy of the State

One thing that is getting glossed over in the stories about the San Bernardino terror attack is that it includes yet another connection to Saudi Arabia.  Syed Farook traveled to that country to pick up his wife--whom he had met on the internet.  Tashfeen Malik was actually a native of Pakistan--and officials are not sure when she moved to Saudi Arabia.  Her K-1 visa was issued through Saudi Arabia to join Farook as a "fiancĂ©e" in the US.

You may recall that fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers were in the US on Saudi Arabian visas.  Two were from the United Arab Emirates and there was one each from Egypt and Lebanon.  The nationality of these terror suspects usually doesn't get played up much because Saudi Arabia (and the UAE) is one of our "friends" in the Middle East.  They of course, provide us with cheap oil and military bases from which to stage our operations in the region.  In return, we provide them with a lot of money and protection from the same jihadist sects that are causing unrest in the rest of the Middle East and Central Asia.  We also turn a blind eye to what is one of the more oppressive societies in the world--with women enjoying few rights and criminal punishments that would lead to continuous protests here in the US.

And it is that society that is the breeding ground--and it appears, a portal to the US--for those who seek to bring their jihad to our country.  I would like to think that President Obama in his address to the nation between football games on Sunday issued his challenge to Muslims to combat this militant faction as a subtle hint to the Saudis and the other emirates to bring the radicals in their own countries into line.

Bernie Sanders likes to claim that addressing global climate change will somehow reduce terrorism--like ISIS and Al Qaeda are concerned about carbon emissions and are fighting to "save the planet".  In reality, moving away from a carbon-based global economy will increase the danger from militant Islam.  Once the money and the infrastructure provided by oil production goes away, what do Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE have to offer the rest of the world?  You can put oil on a tanker and ship it anywhere in the world for a relatively low price.  If you covered the entire Arabian Peninsula with solar arrays and wind turbines it would still be far more expensive to transport that electricity anywhere else.  The likelihood of increased isolation from the West is high in a post-oil world.

So as you listen to the talking heads listing the threats to our safety by our enemies around the world--don't forget that we have a few "friends" that aren't doing us any favors either.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Status Quo Speech

If you're like me, you are probably wondering today why President Obama took to the airwaves last night to address the nation on terrorism.  The 19-minute speech contained little more than the message "we are going to keep doing what we are doing"--which for a growing number of Americans is not enough.

President Obama asked Congress to give him a declaration of war against ISIS/ISIL--but at the same time, also reiterated that he is not going to send in ground troops to fight the terrorists in Iraq or Syria.  Instead the US will continue to "destroy" terrorism with limited air strikes and drone attacks--just as we have been doing for the past several years.

The President also called for tougher screening processes for those coming to the US on the same visa provided to the woman involved in the San Bernardino shootings--but not for those awaiting refugee status from Syria.  Expect that to be a rider attached to any version of a bill coming out of Congress--which President Obama will then veto saying those refugees are "not the real threat".  Of course, what additional screening would have found terrorist ties to Tashfeen Malik? 

And of course, the President made a call for gun control as well.  Background checks for everyone and banning people on the No Fly and Terrorism Watch Lists from purchasing any weapons.  The only problem is that neither Syed Farook nor Tashfeen Malik were on the No Fly or Terorrism Watch Lists--so how would that have prevented that attack?  What's more, Farook was a US citizen--and had no prior criminal convictions.  What background check was going to prevent him from purchasing a weapon at a gun store?  When the President makes suggestions like that after a shooting incident, he reminds me of the unscrupulous auto mechanic trying to rip off a woman whose headlights don't work by telling her the transaxle is busted and it needs $3000 in repairs.

I think the President's advisors knew that there was a percentage of Americans who just wanted to hear anything from him in the wake of San Bernardino--even if it was a "classic hits" performance.  And you could tell that the White House knew that the rest of the country had no interest by when the timed the speech--starting just minutes after the conclusion of the Carolina Panthers-New Orleans Saints game--and ending moments before kickoff between the Indianapolis Colts and the Pittsburgh Steelers.  You wouldn't want Americans missing what they really care about.

Friday, December 4, 2015

A B1G Mistake

Tonight, the Wisconsin Badgers Men's Hockey team opens up B1G Ten conference play at Michigan.  When it was first announced, B1G Ten hockey sounded like a sure-fire winner.  Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan have all won national championships.  Michigan State had a strong tradition and Ohio State and Penn State certainly have the resources to be good programs.  Illinois and Iowa are also expected to move their programs to scholarship status sometime in the future to make it an 8-team league (yes, there is not a sport where ten teams actually compete in the B1G Ten).  But entering its third year, the B1G Ten is at risk of becoming an unmitigated disaster--and the weakest league in the country.

I was among those who thought B1G Ten hockey would be great.  Long-time rivals in other sports bringing that same passion to the ice after being split into separate conferences for decades.  No more league trips to Anchorage, Fairbanks, Denver or Colorado Springs.  No more games at dinky rinks in Mankato, Duluth, Houghton, Marquette, Sault Ste Marie or Big Rapids.  High profile schools playing other high profile schools with national exposure on the B1G Ten Network as an added bonus.

But after a good start--with Wisconsin and Minnesota both getting number one seeds in the NCAA Tournament in the first year of B1G Ten hockey--there has been a precipitous drop-off in the quality of play.  Last year, Minnesota was the only B1G school to even make the NCAA"s--and they got smoked in the first round.  And for the 3rd year in a row, the conference had a losing record in non-conference play.  Wisconsin managed to win two games against Arizona State (yes, they actually have a Division I hockey program) and what is looking like a miracle victory against then-Number One in the nation North Dakota on the road.

Unlike the centuries-old traditions of football and basketball, the B1G Ten carries no "cache" with top hockey recruits.  It turns out that a lot of kids in the fertile recruiting grounds of Minnesota like being able to play every year in Duluth, Mankato, St Cloud and Bimidji.  Kids from the plains of Canada don't mind Grand Forks, North Dakota as compared to Columbus, Ohio.  And the Western Ontario players are comfortable at Sault Ste Marie and Marquette.  And since B1G Ten schools don't travel there on a regular basis--that exposure to potential recruits has been lost.

Based on the results we are seeing so far--and the projections for the near future--B1G Ten hockey may turn out to be a major failure.  Proof that B1Gger doesn't always mean better.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

See Something, Say Something, Create an Incident

"If you see something, say something" is the new anti-terrorism, anti-mass shooting strategy being adopted by the State of Wisconsin.  Governor Scott Walker is encouraging residents to contact law enforcement if they see anything "out of the ordinary"--as it could foil a planned attack.  Unfortunately, this "citizen crimefighter" approach is overly-simplistic--and will likely lead to very unfortunate incidents.

As someone who monitors emergency scanner traffic all day, I can tell you there are a lot of people who are already "seeing something and saying something"--and sometimes it tells you a lot about our belief in one another.  Let's start with "The caller reports a group of black men sitting in a car outside of a house and wants it checked out."  What was the first thing that went through your mind when you heard that?  Was it "drug deal", "strong armed robbery" or "drive-by shooting incident"?  And would the caller have been as quick to dial 911 if the group of men in the car had been white?

Or let's say it's a Sunday afternoon in September and you see a bunch of cars parked in front of the house across the street and white people heading in and out?  You'd assume that the neighbors were having a Packers party--and you would never think to "say something".  But what if at the same time on a Sunday you saw a bunch of cars parked across the street and "Muslim-looking people" were going inside?  Would that make you think about "saying something"?

And who can forget the John Henson incident in Whitefish Bay?  The employees of the jewelry store that refused to let him into the building without a police presence on site certainly "said something".  As do all of the people who call police the second they see someone carrying a gun--even if that person was only bringing it from their vehicle to their house or vice versa--leading to lockdowns at schools in a five mile radius.  People who own a lot of guns (legally) should expect regular visits from the cops as well because someone new saw their collection.

A lot of this comes from "hindsight being 20/20".  A classic example is the flight training school in Florida that was attended by several of the 9/11 hijackers.  The FBI talked to the instructors who said they did find it odd that these foreigners only wanted to learn how to fly the planes once they were in the air--and not learn how to take off or land them.  And anyone spotting someone wearing a ski mask on 70-degree day in San Bernardino, California should probably dial 911 immediately.

In the meantime, let's keep our noses out of other people's business.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Playing the Back Nine

What should have been a boring, sponsor love-fest type of press conference in the Bahamas yesterday is fueling speculation that Tiger Woods may be done as a golfer.  Tiger is the "host" for the Hero World Challenge this week and after the CEO of Hero and another of his sponsored golfers got done talking about how cool their products are, Tiger took questions about the status of his comeback from yet another back surgery--and the answered raised concerns that there may be no comeback.

In the past, Tiger never waivered from the mantra "I'll be back quicker than the doctors think--and I will be even stronger than I was before".  But for the first time yesterday, the answer was "I don't know when I'll be back".  And then he admitted that he has not been able to swing a club, work on chipping and putting or even to kick the soccer ball around with his kids.  "I play a lot of video games" was his answer to how he fills his time.

Even more telling were the comments that Tiger made when asked if he would be okay with his career if he never played or won again.  Younger Tiger would have gotten snarky and asked right back "Who says my career might be over"--or "I don't think about the end of my career because I've got a lot of years yet to play".  But yesterday, Woods actually answered the question with "I've had a great career, and any wins after this would be gravy."

What's more, the man who talked about having just one career goal: passing Jack Nicklaus and his 18-career majors--with a secondary goal of beating out Sam Snead for most career wins--suddenly reversed that--pointing out that he has surpassed Jack in overall wins, and Snead in career majors.  Nevermind that until six years ago, Tiger smashing both of those records appeared to be a forgone conclusion.

And that takes us back to that fateful Thanksgiving night in 2009 when that inevitability was smashed by what seemed to be a harmless car crash outside of his house.  The air of invincibility was blown by the salacious allegations and myriad of injuries that followed.  And then there were the swing changes and the coaching changes and the chipping yips that turned one of the greatest athletes of our time into a regular weekend hacker.

Perhaps Tiger is giving us the Rope-a-Dope--putting out statements that lead us to start writing his sports eulogy.  That would make any accomplishment beyond this point seem "greater"--and give him another of his favorite lines about "we were under-estimating him" and how he "never lost faith in himself or his game (unlike 'you guys')".  But I think he realizes the end is much closer than he liked to think before the second micro-discectomy surgery two months ago.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Stalinization of American History

I've railed here before about revisionist history--changing the narrative of historical text to fit modern social mores rather than sticking to just facts and actual historic impact.  The ultimate historical revisionist was former Soviet Premier Josef Stalin who took great steps to actually make people "disappear" from the historical record.

As part of his political purges, Stalin targeted pretty much anyone who did not side with him on all subjects and terrorized anyone who dared to challenge him.  Those enemies--actual and perceived--were killed, exiled to Siberia or forced to leave the country altogether.  And once those enemies were gone, Stalin had his "historians" actually go through public records, photographs and even films to literally "delete" any and all references to that person.  It was like they never existed.  Stalin also went so far as to alter the same documents, pictures and films to make it appear that he was present at all great moments of Soviet history--even when he wasn't within 500-miles of the event.

I am reminded of the Stalinization of Russian history every time I read about a new demand from college students and other liberals to erase certain aspects of American history.  The latest battle comes from Princeton University--where students of color are demanding that all references to former President (and University President) Woodrow Wilson be removed from campus because he was a racist.  This is particularly troubling, as Wilson is generally considered to be the Father of Modern Liberalism--a man who believed there was no problem that greater government control and spending couldn't fix, as well as a belief that multi-nationalism superceded American Exceptionalism--so now we have a case of the Left turning upon its own.

For the students of Princeton, Wilson's initial push for programs like Social Security, unemployment insurance and the League of Nations is completely trumped (an ironic word when you think about it) by his re-segregation of the Federal Government--and the division of white and blacks in the workplace.  Today, walking into a building named the Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs and Diplomacy is such a "micro-aggression" and "trigger event" that a minority student couldn't possibly be expected to learn anything.

And so, Woodrow Wilson must go--just like Leon Trotsky "disappeared" from the history of the Soviet Union under Stalin--and just like any reference to the Confederacy must be obliterated in the South.  No more can his name grace the campus which he transformed from an "rich, old boys club" to the Liberal safe-haven that it is today--with "safe-spaces" and limits upon free speech and the open exchange of ideas.

It was only after the collapse of Socialism in the Soviet Union that Russians could once again learn a "full history" of them as a people and as a nation.  How many historic Americans will be "lost" to the new crop of "Stalins" running amok on our college campuses before freedom is restored?

Monday, November 30, 2015

We've Been Down This Path Before

What will likely be the most-expensive conference in human history gets underway today in Paris.  The Global Climate Summit--or COP21 as it is known for short--aims to craft a global treaty to limit the production of carbon emissions across all nations for an indeterminate amount of time.  I don't mean that the conference itself will be the most-expensive--although providing enhanced security for hundreds of world leaders in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks (which Bernie Sanders says are directly related to global warming) will certainly be expensive.  And I doubt that all of those dignitaries hiked or biked to Paris and they aren't camping out in Paris parks and bathing in the River Seine.

The real expense will come in the decades after the conference ends with a flurry of "holy pictures" and handshaking, as First World nations move away from the economies they built upon cheaper forms of energy like coal and oil and to less reliable "renewable" energies.  Those world leaders will all agree that the added expense is a "small price to pay in order to save the Earth"  from a fate that nobody can really guarantee is going to be cataclysmic.

Here in the US, a proposed treaty deal would mean that "small price to pay" would be felt at the gas pump--as $2 a gallon will be will seem as unbelievable to future drivers as 25-cent gas seems to us--and at the car dealership--as more emissions controls and even higher fuel-economy standards make cars more expensive to purchase and operate.

That "small price to pay" will be felt in your monthly heating and electricity bill--as cheaper coal-fired power plants are shut down and replaced by wind and solar arrays that produce less energy at a higher per-unit cost.  And energy costs have a ripple effect throughout the--especially in manufacturing--where the production of steel requires huge amounts of electricity--as does powering any large plant.

That "small price to pay" will add up at the grocery store too--as production, harvesting and shipment of foodstuffs becomes more expensive.  Less use of carbon-based fertilizers and pesticides will reduce yields in the field and put the reliability of some crops in doubt due to blight or infestation.

And that "small price to pay" will be felt on your local, state and federal tax bills as well.  All levels of governments have their own energy costs to cover--and they purchase many of the same privately-produced products as we do at home.  Add to that the additional cost to fuel vehicles and aircraft, power buildings and computer systems and that there will be more citizens that will  need energy assistance to keep their own heat and lights on.  And that is before the US government drops billions on subsidizing the construction and operation of alternative energy production here--and in developing countries around the world who haven't even been able to develop reliable power grids using cheaper coal, oil and natural gas.

Another "small price to pay" will be "retributions" to island and coastal nations affected by the predicted three foot rise in ocean levels by the end of the century--even though these countries (including places like Florida) were built up on land that everyone knew had sat under the ocean for centuries before the most recent cycle of Ice Ages lowered sea levels.

And let's not forget that all of this "global climate control success" is predicated on every single country living up to its treaty requirements--and we know that no nation would ever lie about upholding the terms of a treaty--even if it is hurting its people.  I think the final signing ceremony should be moved to a rail car in Versailles, France--just like the previous most-expensive treaty in human history was.

Friday, November 27, 2015

You Can Come Down Off the Ledge

It's a good thing last night's Packers game was held on a holiday, as many fans were with family and friends that could talk them out of committing some rash act because the team lost their fourth game out of the last five.  Face it, Green Bay fans, your team is just as mediocre as the rest of the league.

There used to be a joke that former Commissioner "Parity" Pete Rozelle hoped that one year every team in the NFL would finish 8-8.  The way things are going this season, it's possible we could have two 16-0 teams--and a bunch of 7-9 or 6-10- teams--with a couple of those actually winning divisions and making the playoffs.

The NFL is a mess.  There are only four or five guys that are any good at the quarterback position--and a couple of those are getting hurt all the time.  Few teams make any effort to run the football anymore--choosing instead to place a greater burden on their under-talented, over-hyped quarterbacks to complete passes to move the ball at all.  Off-the-field issues continue to crop up--with admitted alcoholics posting videos of themselves partying, guys who beat up women and threaten them with guns getting big, new contracts and being described as "a great team leader" and a player already on suspension getting shot in the head.

And don't even get me started on the officiating.  When the TV networks have to employ "rules experts" to explain calls--or to offer an opinion on a call that invariably is not the ruling ultimately made by the officials on the field despite the aid of replay--you know you've got a problem.

But, ratings are up again this year--and sponsors keep beating a path to the door waving cash--so what is there for Commissioner "Rollin' in the Dough" Roger Goodell to worry about?  And that is why you Packers fans shouldn't worry either.  Just because your receivers can't get open--and then don't catch the ball when they do--doesn't mean you are any worse than the collection of sad sack teams in the league.  Do you really think Teddy Bridgewater is going to lead the Vikings to a division title?  And besides, as I predicted at the start of the season, you weren't going to beat the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Playoffs anyway.  So just r-e-l-a-x and "enjoy" the decidedly average football that will be played out the rest of the season. 

Besides, everybody's just playing for the Fan Duel and Draft Kings points.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Saluting Green Bay's Greatest....And That Other Guy

Tomorrow night, Packers fans will welcome back their greatest player ever.  And then they will retire Brett Favre's number.  I'm of course, talking about Bart Starr's planned participation in the Favre number retirement ceremony--which had been in doubt, as Starr has struggled to recover from multiple strokes, a heart attack and a lung infection that all nearly killed him.  And it is that uncertainty that I hope fuels Packers fans to give Starr the one final salute that he certainly deserves.

The contrast between the two quarterbacks that will be on the field Thursday night could not be any greater.  Starr went 5-1 in NFL Championship Games and a perfect 2-0 in Super Bowls.  Favre went 2-3 in NFC Championship Games (including one loss with Minnesota) and 1-1 in the Super Bowl. 
For decades, Starr held the NFL record for most consecutive passes without an interception.  Favre still holds the NFL record for most interceptions thrown in a career. 

Starr worked hard to earn the respect of the legendary Vince Lombardi.  I believe Favre truly respected Mike Holmgren--but did nothing to hide his disdain for Ray Rhodes and treated Mike Sherman like a puppet. 

In all of the time I lived in Green Bay, I never heard anyone tell a story about how they hung out with Bart Starr in a bar all night.  During that same time in Green Bay, I could have told you the bar and the nights when you could find Brett Favre hanging out. 

Bart Starr never sent a picture of his "junk" to another team employee. 

In one of the coldest games ever played, Starr led the Packers down the field in the final minutes of the Ice Bowl with precision passing before taking the ball into the end zone himself for the game-winning touchdown.  In the equally frigid 2007 NFC Championship game, Favre threw the interception that set up the New York Football Giants game-winning field goal in overtime.

And when he realized that he no longer had the skills necessary to compete in the NFL, Starr quietly announced his retirement--capping a career spent exclusively in Green Bay.  Favre kept the organization hanging for a couple of off-seasons before holding a tear-filled press conference to say he was done--only to follow that a couple of weeks later with an announcement that he was un-retiring (even though the organization had taken steps to move on) and then demanding a trade.  Which was followed by another retirement announcement and then another un-retirement announcement and open courting of division-rival Minnesota so he could "stick it" to the Packers twice a year.

Now don't get me wrong, I certainly believe Brett Favre deserves to have his number retired and to be part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  I just hope the longest and the loudest ovation tomorrow night comes for the man who wore the already-retired number 15 as he comes onto the Frozen Tundra for what will likely be the final time in his life.  Just to remind the Ol' Gunslinger who is still the Sheriff around these parts.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The New Republicans

Political analysts on the Left often wonder how some of the poorest areas of the country vote Republican in nearly every election.  The prevailing thought is that there is racism at play--or that those folks are voting with their Bibles.  Liberals like to say those people are "voting against their own self-interests" by supporting candidates that openly call for trimming public entitlement programs.

An article in the New York Times looked into this phenomenon and discovered that the political analysts are getting it all wrong.  There are actually two factors deciding those elections.  One--those who are on the dole tend not to vote at all--thus not taking the one action they have that would "preserve" their benefits.  And two--those who have just worked their way out of the "Social Safety Net" are the ones who support its trimming the most.

The Republican voters quoted in the story were people who had fallen upon hard times--due in large part to the economic downtown at the end of the last decade.  They entered into the programs like Unemployment, Food Stamps, WIC, free job training, free child care, etc.  And while they were trying to work their way out of "the system", they became familiar with those who are making no effort to get out of "the system".  Those who are turning the "Social Safety Net" into a "Social Safety Hammock".  And those trying hard to make it on their own don't take too kindly to those sponging off of them.

It is those voters who don't buy the favorite phrase of the Left: "through no fault of their own" to describe those who have, in fact, made a number of choices that first put them into social programs and who continue to make choices that keep them there.  Like the Republicans they now vote for, those working their way back up don't want to eliminate public entitlements--but they want to spend only what is necessary to provide help to those that truly need it.  They don't define "success" as how many people can we give money to--even if they could be earning it themselves.

And as for those who are making no effort to get to the polls.  That says a lot about how much they really "appreciate" our help.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Go Before You Go

It looks like us guys are going to lose the bathroom advantage that evolution gave us.  The days of gender-specific bathrooms may be coming to an end.  An increase in legal challenges by those who identify as transgender are putting both public institutions and private businesses in the incredibly awkward position of having to provide facilities that meet standards that federal agencies have yet to actually detail--while preventing incidents that would rise to cases of indecent exposure to a child.

In listening to our interview with Oshkosh School Superinendent Stan Mack last week, you could hear the frustration in his voice as he and the School Board try to come up with a solution that satisfies the handful of transgender students in the district--while not leading to hundreds--if not thousands--of complaints from parents who don't want their daughters to share facilities with people who have penises.  Mack is of the opinion--due to a ruling in an Illinois lawsuit--that installing a unisex bathroom and retaining existing gender-specific facilities will not be good enough for the Federal Government.  That is apparently seen as "separate but not equal".

That leaves two options: Existing bathrooms that feature all stalls with doors that lock--meaning an end to the "urinal era" in men's bathrooms--or a series of unisex facilities with separate entrances and locking doors.  Either way, it's an expensive solution.

Small private business will likely avoid lawsuits from both sides by removing the men's and women's signs and having locking doors.  Malls, larger employers and places like Lambeau Field and Miller Park will dump the urinal and go to all stalls.  Which means us guys can no longer stroll right past the long line to use the ladies' room--do our business in 30-seconds--and stroll right back out without missing any of the action.  They might want to relocate the concession stands adjacent to the bathrooms from now on--you're going to be there awhile.

Now, will this assuage the concerns of parents sending children into public bathrooms?  We already have news stories of peeping toms (and worse) hiding in gender specific restrooms.  How would you feel about having all gender designations removed--and everyone having a "right" to be in there?  And we are just talking about bathrooms right now.  What do you do when a transgender student wants to play sports on the team he or she "identifies" with?  Will locker room facilities have to be individualized or partitioned?  And how do health clubs plan to deal with such situations?

My suggestion is very low-cost.  Let's all just go before we go out--you know, empty the tank--and conversely, hold it until we get home again.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The End of a Very Boring Era

On Sunday, Jeff Gordon will participate in his final NASCAR race before heading into retirement.  Some are calling it the "end of an era".  Well if that is true, it will be the end of a very boring era.

Gordon was the first great "tactical" racer in NASCAR.  Unlike his legendary predecessors--Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough--Jeff Gordon did not bring a "checkers or wreckers" mentality to the track.  If he had a great car, he made sure not to use it up, stayed out of trouble and brought home a win or a top five finish.  If he didn't have a great car that day, Gordon was content to hang back and pick up as many points as possible toward the Winston/Nextel/Sprint Cup title.  Announcers came to call the strategy "big picture racing".

But I would challenge the biggest Jeff Gordon fan to list the most exciting victory in his career.  I mean a race that had you talking the next day about spectacular passes or door-banging action.  As a fan of the late Dale Earnhardt, I could spend an hour recapping such races--like the Pass On the Grass in Charlotte, the Spin To Win at Bristol or going from 18th to 1st in two laps to capture his last career win at Talledega.  A "great" Jeff Gordon victory involves discussion of the time he stayed out when all the other leaders pitted to get gas and he had just enough fuel to make it to the finish--or that time he was fifth heading into the final pit stop and the "Rainbow Warriors" got him out in first and he held on to win--or the really thrilling time he got a great set of sticker tires and a wedge adjustment and was able to run the low groove to pull away late.

I'll admit Gordon was a trendsetter.  He begat his even more boring Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmy Johnson--who has taken "staying out of trouble and taking care of your equipment" to six Cup titles--most of them in years that he did not win the most races on the circuit.  Gordon is also responsible for the "nervous driver wife" cutaway that has become a staple of NASCAR broadcasts.  His former wife Brooke was a model and made for good TV as she watched with crossed fingers in the pits.  I did warm a bit to Gordon after she took him to the cleaners in their subsequent divorce.

Dale Earnhardt gave Jeff Gordon his nickname of "Wonderboy" and once toasted him at the NASCAR awards banquet with a glass of milk to poke fun at the success he enjoyed at an early age.  But Dale, Sr also gave Wonderboy grudging respect for what he was able to accomplish--even if it was more technical and tactical than bold and fearless.  And that is what most NASCAR fans will give Gordon on Sunday--even if he were to win at Homestead and capture an unexpected 5th Cup title--grudging respect.  Just don't expect a lot of tears.

Oh, and hopefully Gordon fans can put away those ridiculous-looking rainbow pit crew jackets too.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

What's the Holdup?

Back in the halcyon days of summer--when he was drawing huge crowds of young people and celebrities were tweeting their support for him every day--Bernie Sanders promised a "major speech" on how he envisioned Democratic Socialism to work in the United States.  That speech was promised in a "couple of weeks" back in July--along with Sanders introducing a single-payer medical system bill he likes to call "Medicare For All".  But here we are in mid-November and there has been no "major speech" and no "Medicare For All" bill.

The folks at noticed the same thing this week and asked the Sanders campaign staff about that.  The staffers claim the speech is "almost ready to go"--but Bernie is still working on it.  In last Saturday's debate, Sanders could provide no specifics as to his tax plan--joking top end rates would be less than those under "Socialist President Eisenhower".  Politico believes that Sanders is getting cold feet about laying bare all that he believes in.  But I think the delay is due to a much simpler--and less emotional--reason: They can't get the numbers to add up.

Remember a couple of months ago when the Wall Street Journal ran an article claiming that Sanders' campaign proposals would cost $18-TRILLION?  All of his supporters immediately dismissed the figures as "scare tactics".  But what if in putting the pen to paper, those in the campaign realized that the Journal was correct--and may have actually been conservative in their cost estimates?

Keep in mind that Bernie Sanders wants the Federal Government to take on the costs of all medical care for 360-MILLION residents ($3.8-TRILLION annually), the entire cost of college tuition for all students ($62.6-BILLION annually), forgive all of the current student loan debt ($1.2-TRILLION), and provide free child care ($18,000 per child annually).  And that is before increasing the payments for Social Security, unemployment insurance and food stamps and committing to rebuild the nation's infrastructure, building high speed rail and increasing local transit.

The non-specific plan calls for all of that spending to be balanced out by hyper-taxing the rich and corporations and ending subsidies for everything from oil drilling and ethanol production to milk pricing.  But what if the 90% tax bracket and the penny-per-financial trade "fee" on Wall Street aren't going to be enough--or even close to enough?  How then do you sell this Socialist plan to people when you already have an $18-TRILLION budget deficit?  I guess you could always have Bernie Sanders' "major speech" followed by a two-hour lecture from Keynsian Economist Paul Krugman about how government debt doesn't matter--because you can always just print more money (although that devalues the currency and defeats the purpose of a $15 an hour minimum wage by reducing buying power and really just keeping the poor, poor).

So until they suspend the laws of mathematics and economics, we will probably be waiting awhile on Bernie Sanders' "vision" for a Democratic Socialist America.  Of course, I'm sure the Brothers Grimm took awhile to write their fairy tales too.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The New Know Nothings

Those of us lucky enough to study pre-revisionist US History are familiar with the Know Nothing Party of the mid-1800's.  The party sprung up among Protestants in the East in response to an influx of European immigrants coming to America and concerns that they would "fundamentally change the country".  Kind of sounds familiar doesn't it?  As members of Congress and governors across the US can't get in front of microphones fast enough to denounce plans to settle legal refugees from Syria here.

On the face of it, a desire to keep out potential ISIS operatives hiding amongst the refugees is a valid argument.  But perhaps House Speaker Paul Ryan--who wants a "pause" in the Syrian refugee resettlement program--should consider that the Know Nothings wanted to keep his Irish ancestors out of the country out of fear their Catholicism would lead to greater Papal influence over the US.  Congressman Glenn Grotheman--who wonders why people seeking peace and freedom "would even want to come here"--should recall that his German ancestors who came over in the 19th Century contained more than a few Marxists.  So many, in fact, that the Mecca of German-American culture, Milwaukee, elected Socialists to City Hall for nearly 70-years.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's Italian ancestors likely came over with mafiosos.  The Jewish ancestors of Senator Dianne Feinstein and former Senator Russ Feingold were feared to be Communists and Bolsheviks.  All "concerns" that gave rise to the Know Nothings and their anti-immigrant platform.

What is being lost in all of the post-Paris-attacks hysteria is that the Syrian refugees--and really all Muslims that come to the US to escape the barbarism of ISIS, ISIL, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and the Taliban--could be very valuable allies in the fight against those same enemies.  Those groups recruit on the "the West hates us" mentality.  What would make us look less hateful than actually opening our arms to those who turn their back on radicalism?  And if those refugees eventually return home--or at least stay in contact with families in their homelands--they can tell everyone over there that we Americans aren't that bad.

If anything, Republicans should be embracing Muslim refugees like Democrats have embraced the illegal immigrants coming from Mexico and Central America--as they share some of the same cultural values.  Muslims do not go into debt.  They would be horribly offended by the Kardashians and Miley Cyrus.  And Liberal heads would probably explode when faced with the quandary of Muslim families coming to local school boards to complain about their daughters having to use bathrooms with people that have penises--but say they are actually women.  Which "persecuted" people do you side with on that one?

If we are going to go back to our high school American History days, perhaps a field trip to the Statue of Liberty--that wonderful gift from France--is in order for everyone forming the New Know Nothing Party so we can read Emma Lazarus's poem at the base:

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Sorry, Aaron, That's Not Enough

Until a few days ago, this My Two Cents would have been a pat on the back for Aaron Rodgers and his comments about a bit of ugliness before Sunday's game (before the real ugliness that took place after kickoff all the way through the botched field goal to end it).  You've likely heard that during a moment of silence for the victims of the Paris terrorist attacks, a fan yelled out "Muslims suck!" audible to others in the stadium--and apparently, the Packers sideline.  In his post-game comments, Rodgers expressed his disappointment in the behavior of the fan and chided others who might think the same way.

Like I said, until a few days ago I would have applauded Mr,Rodgers for using his First Amendment rights to free speech to criticize an idiot that also exercised his First Amendment rights to free speech to prove what a moron he is.  But a new precedent for an "acceptable" response to such comments is now in place, thanks to the University of Missouri.  And therefore it is clear that Packers fans and players must do more than just denounce the "culture of racism" at Lambeau Field.

For starters, Packers fans should set up a makeshift camp on the field itself and refuse to leave until Team President Mark Murphy and General Manager Ted Thompson are fired or quit.  It is through their inaction that the fan in question--who has never been identified--was allowed to express his racist thoughts.  It is only through the removal Murphy and Thompson that such incidents can be guaranteed to never happen again.

To show their support for this "courageous effort", Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the Packers should refuse to practice or play until Murphy and Thompson are removed from their positions.  The coaching staff should also voice their support for protesters and the players--and work as "security" to prevent the press from entering the makeshift camp to report on what is being done and said there--as it is an obvious violation of the protesters' "safe space".

And once Mark Murphy and Ted Thompson are fired or quit--the fans should continue their protests--demanding that admission to the games be free from now on--that the credit cards they used to purchase past season tickets be paid off in full by people that don't even attend Packers games and that fans of opposing teams never be allowed inside Lambeau Field ever again--as cheering for the other team creates a "hostile environment" both for Packers fans and their players.

So unless you are willing to take these steps to crush any expression with which you do not agree, Aaron Rodgers, all you are doing is providing lip service.

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Not-So-Subtle Reminder

You know how President Obama likes to say that global climate change is the "greatest national security threat we face"?  He used it as his rationale for imposing arbitrary carbon emissions standards on US power plants--which will add hundreds of dollars a year to energy bills for low- and middle-income families.  He cited it as a reason for unilaterally killing the Keystone XL pipeline--which would have increased our access to non-Middle Eastern, Canadian oil in a way that would not require transportation in rail tanker cars--like the ones that derailed in Watertown just a couple of days after the President stomped out the pipeline.

Well the Paris attackers provided us--and the world--with another, not-so-subtle reminder of what is truly the greatest threat to our national--and global--security: radical, militant Islam.

As fate would have it, the world's number one global climate change alarmist--Al Gore--was in Paris on the night of the attacks.  He was hosting a concert to raise money for his anti-business efforts--I mean to "raise awareness of global climate change"--at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.  Among those on the bill were Bon Jovi and Elton John.  Mr. Gore ended up pulling the plug on the show early--as the event to cause alarm over a projected threat was just a couple of miles away from an actual global threat actually killing people.

Meanwhile, Paris is also supposed to be the site of a global climate change summit in a couple of weeks--where world leaders were going to voluntarily restrict their economic and societal growth in the name of "saving the planet".  But now organizers are not sure if they will hold the event--because of the actual threat of radical, militant Islam targeting the summit.  I'm not sure what the climate change alarmists have to worry about, ISIS also wants to return the world to the 12th century where windmills were your main source of mechanical energy--and you hoped the sun would warm your house enough during the day so you didn't freeze to death at night.

You would think that Friday's incident would have brought some clarity to those on the Left about what constitutes a "threat" to national security.  But just hours after no one at the Democratic Presidential debate could bring themselves to identify the Paris attackers as "radical Islamists", Bernie Sanders was right back out there telling a rally that what happened in Paris, and Beirut, and Nigeria, and on-board the Russian plane in Egypt, and Somalia, and Egypt again, and Afghanistan, and Iraq, and Yemen and in Paris once before--this year alone aren't that grave a threat--and that you driving your car by yourself to work everyday is what is really a danger to society.

Fortunately, we no longer have to worry about Iran getting nuclear weapons and making this "non-threat" even worse--since they have promised to inspect themselves and let us come in at any time--with 24-days advance notice, of course.

Friday, November 13, 2015

A Candidate We Can All Support

As we approach mid-November more focus is being placed on candidates for the Heisman Trophy.  LSU running back Leonard Fournette is still the front-runner--despite his mediocre performance in a loss to Alabama last week.  Crimson Tide running back Derrick Henry is also at the top of many lists after he outrushed Fournette in that same game.  And Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman is putting up crazy numbers in that stupid Spread/Read Option offense that the Bears run.  But there is one candidate for the "most outstanding player in college football" that is not getting nearly enough attention: Navy Quarterback Keenan Reynolds.

Navy is having a great year with an 8-1 record so far.  Their only loss is to 4th ranked Notre Dame and the Midshipmen are coming off a dominating win over previously undefeated Memphis last week.  Should the Middies win out, they may be heading to their first New Year's Day bowl game since Roger Staubach was quarterback.  Reynolds is a four year starter and a co-captain--at a school where "captaincy" really means something.

On Saturday, Reynolds will likely break the NCAA all-time rushing touchdowns record currently held by former Wisconsin running back Montee Ball.  They currently share the record at 77.  Reynolds actually would have the record already but on a play from the one-yard line last week in Memphis, he called an audible away from a quarterback keeper to a play that called for him to pitch it to his slotback (Navy runs the Wing-T, triple option offense--sorry about these "ancient" football terms) who walked into the endzone untouched for the game-clinching TD.

It would have been easy for Reynolds to keep the ball on that play and try to score the record setting touchdown himself--but he saw that a teammate would have an easier time scoring and he gave up the ball.  This is even more impressive as Reynolds is a Tennessee native and had most of his family members at the game that day hoping to see him break the record.

Off the field, Reynolds is a 3.32 GPA student in International Relations at one of the most demanding academic institutions in the country--where you not only study and play football--but train for military action as well.  And he is a kid that dreamed only of attending one of the military academies and serving his country.  And by going to Navy, he is forfeiting any hope of playing in the NFL right out of college--as he is required to remain on active duty for five years after graduation.

Sure, Keenan Reynolds may not have the gaudy statistics that SEC running backs or Big 12 wide receivers may have.  All of his games have not been on ESPN at prime time on Saturday nights.  Mel Kiper, Jr and Todd McShay don't have him at the top of their "draft boards".  But the virtues that he embodies--both on and off the field--would make him a Heisman Trophy winner of which we can all be proud.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Episode IV: A New Hope

In case you haven't noticed, there is an effort to snuff out thoughts and expressions that might offend or anger one person somewhere in the world.  The Anti-Personal Freedom crowd is finding its greatest allies on college campuses--which once heralded themselves as the bastions of expression and thought and debate over important issues.

Once upon a time, you could have a discussion in a classroom setting where someone could attempt to rationalize the Confederacy's decision to leave the Union and to fight the Civil War.  Now such discussion would be a microaggression that could "trigger" a person of color to have "negative feelings" about themselves.  Better to just teach that Ante-Bellum Southerners were evil, racist people who needed to be defeated by slightly less evil and racist people.

One former UW-Oshkosh instructor that I know nearly lost his job after posing the question in a communications course that asked students to consider if stereotypical characters continue to exist in popular culture and the media because they still contain some element of truth about the people portrayed (otherwise the viewer would be left to wonder "Why would they do or say that?").  After a spirited and thought-provoking discussion, one student went to administration to say that he or she was "offended" by the tone of the class--and the instructor faced disciplinary action for his "insensitive course content".

In just the past few days, the student protesters on the University of Missouri campus have used intimidation tactics on student journalists to keep them from covering rallies and discussions on public property saying it violates their "safe space".  And when you consider that these are the people colleges are unleashing on the workforce and the Government--it would appear that we are in for some dark days ahead.

But now it appears there could be some hope on the horizon.  The Atlantic Magazine--which will never be confused for Fox News Channel--is asking what effect this "intellectual coddling" and efforts to "protect" students from offense will have on society long-term.  Two articles in back to back months warn of the growing danger of state-sponsored denial of free speech and free thought.  And then this week, similar sentiments from sportswriter Jason Whitlock both in print and on Colin Cowherd's talk radio show on Fox Sports Radio.

It remains to be seen if the concerns raised by those on the left will be heeded--or if the authors of the Atlantic articles will be denigrated as "writing from White Privilege" and Jason Whitlock will be branded an "Uncle Tom" who "sold out to corporate interests".  I guess they can just join the rest of us at the "bigots" table for Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Tail Wagging the Dog

There was some head scratching a few years back when the University of Missouri left the Big 12 Conference to join the Southeastern Conference.  They had been courted by the Big 10 to join them along with their natural rival Nebraska.  But after this week, it is clear that Mizzou does indeed belong in the SEC--because football obviously rules the campus.

African-American members of the team threatened to boycott all practices and games until Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin and school President Tim Wolfe were fired or quit.  This was part of a larger protest on campus by black students who claim their complaints about racism were not being treated with enough seriousness.  Just a day after the boycott was announced, both administrators did step down--and the football boycott is being hailed as the step that finally forced some change.

But when you step back and take a look at the entire situation, why would football players refusing to play be the reason for the resignation of two men who had up until that moment weathered the storm?  Do college football players carry some sort of higher moral authority than every other student on campus?  Did Loftin and Wolfe think "Wow, if we've lost the football players, there is no point in carrying on"?  There had been vocal protests on campus for three months.  Heck, there was one guy threatening to starve himself to death if Loftin and Wolfe didn't quit.  Apparently, that threat didn't carry as much weight as the possibility of canceling Saturday's football game.

And it is in that game that we find the answer to all of those questions.  Missouri was scheduled to play Brigham Young University on Saturday at home.  If the game was canceled, BYU would still get their $1-MILLION payout.  That is how non-conference games are scheduled in college football--the home team pays handsomely for the other school to play on the road.  Without those payouts--which can fund a large majority of the football budget for those small schools the big boys play in September--nobody would give up the potential revenue of a home game and there would be no non-conference action at all.

And speaking of home game revenue.  A canceled contest would also require Mizzou to refund the pre-paid tickets to the 70-thousand or so fans that were coming to the game (given the Mormon Church's history in Missouri, it was likely to be a big crowd).  Add to that the lost revenues for concessions, parking and in-stadium advertising--and you can see where the real "motivation for change" was coming from among administrators.

There was plenty of talk on the sports radio dial yesterday about college athletes "learning what power they hold" and whether more teams who try to exploit that--especially when it comes to getting paid beyond their scholarships and stipends.  What if the Wisconsin Badgers team decided they weren't going to play that game against Alabama at Lambeau Field next year unless the school ended research testing on live animals?  Or Marquette Basketball players stayed off the court until the school removed all references to Christianity from the campus--since that is an obvious micro-aggression against non-Christians? 

There can't be a University President or Chancellor feeling real good about what happened this week down at Missouri--because it has revealed how many schools have sold their souls for the sake of sports.  Maybe the Athletic Director should be the one handing out the diplomas at graduation from now on.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Why Are We Here?

One of the most bizarre moments in recent American political history came in the Vice Presidential debate of 1992 when Ross Perot's running mate, Admiral James Stockdale, famously opened the night by asking "Why am I here?"  It led to Saturday Night Live spoofs and late night comedian jokes--not to mention calling into question Perot's own judgement.  But I would encourage any or all of the Republican presidential candidates to ask the same question during tonight's debate in Milwaukee.  Why are we here?

I say that because there is absolutely no reason for this debate to be in Milwaukee at this time.  The Wisconsin Primary isn't until April--five months away.  And by that time, at least nine of the candidates taking the stage tonight won't even be in the race anymore--including one of the two current "frontrunners".  Why get fired up about a bunch of guys--and a woman--you probably won't even have a chance to vote for next year?  All of these debates should be taking place at the University of Iowa or Iowa State or Drake--where voters will acutally have a chance to support all but two or three of the candidates

And why Wisconsin at all?  This is a state that hasn't voted Republican for President since 1984 (yes, Michael Dukakis won Wisconsin in 1988.  Don't you feel real proud of yourself right now?).  I know GOP Chairman Reince Priebus probably thought that he would be doing his buddy Scott Walker a favor by giving him a potential "home game" tonight (or maybe he thought Paul Ryan would have jumped in to save the party by this point) but as luck would have it, the Governor couldn't keep a tight enough budget to last 100-days in the race.

Maybe the Republican Party wants to use Milwaukee as an example of what happens when you elect Democrats and Liberals to power for 55 straight years.  Perhaps the candidates are being briefed on the urban decay, the school system that parents don't care about, the loss of manufacturing and brewing jobs, the high crime and incarceration rates and the illegal drug use.  Bonus points to any candidate who makes fun of Mayor Tom Barrett for thinking that all of those problems will go away if the city builds a streetcar line.

So get ready for Donald Trump to mention that his hotels are much nicer than any you are going to find in Milwaukee.  Fake a laugh at Chris Christie pointing out "you don't get to be my size without loving cheese".  And wonder why tonight's debate isn't being held at Circus World in Baraboo instead.