Tuesday, March 31, 2015

You Are No Better Than Us!

While most of us Wisconsinites are celebrating the Badgers Men's Basketball team's return to the Final Four this week, a writer for the Boston Globe believes we should be hanging our heads in shame.  In an op-ed article entitled "Top on the courts, but Wisconsin at bottom of graduation rates"  Derrick Z. Jackson criticizes the UW program for its "failure" to graduate its African-American players.  Jackson cites NCAA statistics that show the Badgers had a ZERO PERCENT graduation rate for black players last season--making them "the worst" in the country.  It's the kind of stinging rebuke that should have us Wisconsin fans taking a second look at our beloved program.  So why don't we do that?

It is absolutely correct that the Badgers Men's Basketball team failed to graduate a single black player last year.  That is because the only three African-American players on the team were underclassmen.  Traevon Jackson was a junior while Nigel Hayes and Vitto Brown were just freshmen last year.  Unless they took a lot of advanced placement courses in high school, none of those guys were going to be getting degrees after last season.  Derrick Z. Jackson calls himself a "cheesehead" in his article--but it's clear that he doesn't really follow the Badgers or he probably would have known the reason why Wisconsin got a zero in that ranking.  He also could have gone to the UW Basketball website and checked out the profile pages of past Black Badgers players to see that the season before last both Ryan Evans and JD Wise graduated with degrees from Madison.  So either the Athletic Department is lying to the NCAA--to make itself look bad for some reason--or there is something messed up with the tracking down in Kansas City.

Of course, we all know why this non-fact-checked article was written and published at the time it was.  All this week, the predominantly White Badgers are going to be held up as all that is good and virtuous about college sports.  "These are true STUDENT-Athletes" many will say when looking at Wisconsin.  In fact, the New York Times featured many of these same Badgers players in an article showing them at their hotel during the regionals in last year's tournament taking proctored mid-term exams, working on senior projects and writing lengthy papers--ostensibly, while other school were just preparing for their next game.

Meanwhile, Kentucky is being portrayed as the ultimate "One and done" school--where predominantly Black players are brought in for the sole purpose of playing and winning basketball games--while academics are brushed off and likely ignored once an athlete is eligible to play in the second semester.  And Derrick Z. Jackson probably doesn't think that is fair (and considering that all of the star Freshmen players from last year's Kentucky squad came back to play this year, he may be right) so he has to try and cut down the "privileged" Badgers--instead of trying to build up the Wildcats.  Kind of sound familiar doesn't it?

Monday, March 30, 2015

You Will Believe What I Tell You To Believe

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof......

If you were to ask liberals which part of the Constitution they would like to remove first, this passage from the First Amendment would probably compete with the entire Second Amendment (the right of citizens to bear arms) for the top spot.  Our Founding Fathers thought freedom of religion (and the fear of state-imposed beliefs) was so important that they made those the very first words in the Bill of Rights.  And for hundreds of years, those words put the United States in a unique position of having religious harmony and diversity unseen in any other country--where often the Church and the State were one in the same--and differing beliefs led to second-class citizenry, expulsion or imprisonment.

But today, those words are seen an impairment to sameness of thought and action.  Under Federal law and in practice in now 29-states (the latest becoming Indiana--and including Wisconsin and Minnesota) the individual right to free exercise of religious beliefs is to be given the same weight as all other individual rights (including the right to Due Process contained in the 14th Amendment) in civil court matters.  The First Amendment right can only be superceded if it is a furtherance of compelling governmental interest and it is the least restrictive means of furthering that governmental interest.

So might I suggest that those opposed to the Federal law that has been on the books since 1993--and the state laws as well consider attacking the problem at the root: In the religion itself.  And the model for changing the beliefs of the Evangelical Christians and the Roman Catholic church can be found in the liberal infiltration of the public education system following World War II.  The Left's take over of schools started at the grassroots level with unionization of teachers, promotion of those teachers to positions of administration, greater political party involvement in local election of school boards and ultimately adoption of left-leaning curriculum to have great influence on everyone before they turn 18 and can vote.

So why don't Liberals take the same approach to changing Fundamentalist religions?  Get men to give up sex and marriage to become priests or join the ministry.  Innundate the pool of potential Bishops and Vicars so that promotion of your "operatives" becomes more likely.  Gain positions of Arch-Bishop and then make your way into the Vatican itself with appointment as Cardinals--or rise to upper levels of management and TV production in the Evangelical realm.  Maybe even get a Pope that is more liberal than Francis and then begin to establish the beliefs that you want all people to have.

You could write a Common Core Bible that better suits today's social mores.  The whole Genesis and Creation thing would have to come out.  The same for Exodus--because the Ten Commandments are way too restrictive for our lifestyles today--and we wouldn't want someone putting those in a Courthouse and holding criminals to those standards.  Plus, Exodus gives credibility to the idea of a Jewish Homeland in the Middle East.  Deuteronomy is out too--all those rules on sex, the roles of women and how other religions should be viewed are unfair today.

Plus, you can reshape Jesus Christ into a pre-Barack Obama savior.  His 12 Apostles could have six women, three blacks, two Latinos, A Muslim and a trans-sexual.  HIs first miracle could be to change the water into wine at a same-sex marriage that Jesus not only attended but officiated at!  He could be made to say that the rich should be taxed for nearly all they have and that blessed are those on Food Stamps.  You could even have Judas be a rich, white Republican who sells out Jesus after the Vegan Last Supper for Corporate Tax Breaks from the Pharisees. 

It might take decades or even a century for the Left to take over all American religions--but once they do then they will believe everyone has the right to practice those religions just the way they say fit.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The 44-Year Old University System That is Still Living at Home

For years and years and years University of Wisconsin System officials would tell anyone willing to listen that they would be able to operate much more efficiently and effectively if they weren't bound to the political whims and follies of the Governor and the State Legislature.  They would be able to find savings in purchasing and procurement, they would have greater flexibility in hiring, they could be more responsive to changing trends in education and research as well.  If only they could have more autonomy and be trusted to handle their own finances.  They are the experts in education--not the people sitting in the Capitol.

And finally--after years of asking for more control--the UW System was going to be given that greater autonomy by none other than Governor Scott Walker.  UW System President Ray Cross initially praised the Governor for his budget proposal.  But the greater freedom came with a tradeoff--the UW was going to get $150-million dollars less in State funding in each of the next two years while tenure and shared governance were no longer going to be written into state statute.

Suddenly, Ray Cross--and nearly everybody else associated with the UW System--were no longer so gung-ho about autonomy.  Cross even went so far this week as to say that he would resign if the Governor's proposal is approved by the Legislature.  Nevermind that the UW and the Board of Regents could make up for the lost state revenue on their own (with tuition increases) or that new policies of tenure and shared governance could be adopted almost immediately.  Without that dependence on the State (and its taxpayers) the folks in the UW are getting scared.

It's easy to increase tuition when members of the Assembly and the State Senate vote in favor of it and the Governor puts his signature on the bill.  You can always tell students and parents "Hey, it's what the State told us to do".  And when keeping ineffective instructors in the classroom leads to complaints from students and parents it's easy to say "Well, tenure is the law.  We can't fire him or her"--rather than accepting the blame yourself.

In many ways, the UW System is like the middle-aged guy who never moved out his parents' house.  He likes to tell anyone that will listen about all the great things he'll be able to do once he "gets his own place".  But he--and his parents--know that is never actually going to happen--so long as good old Mom and Dad are willing to keep footing the bills and making excuses for his decisions.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

21 Jump Street

It certainly caught a lot of people by surprise this week when we learned that the New London Police Department had placed an undercover officer among the student body at the city's high school to investigate reports of drug use and sales along with bullying.  Those of us in our 40's were reminded of the awful FOX TV show 21 Jump Street that featured Johnny Depp and other talentless young actors playing cops who also went undercover into schools to fight crime. 

But just imagine what it must have been like to be that undercover officer.  First off, to be 21-years old and still able to pass as a high schooler is kind of embarrassing in itself.  But to have to go back into that situation should have warranted battle pay.

First off, you have to the "new kid in school".  That means sitting alone at lunch, having to impress other kids with either the car you drive or the headphones you have for you Ipod or by proving that Katy Perry follows you on Twitter. 

Then you have to sit through Common Core Standard math and English classes all without blurting out "This won't help you at all when you get to college" and blowing your cover.  And do you actually put in the work necessary to complete assignments or pass tests?  I'm sure the entire staff was not informed of the undercover officer's presence in the school--since the more people who know, the more likely the operation is going to be exposed.

And then think about having to shop for clothing.  Tight pants and revealing tops if you are pretending to be a female student.  Or spending hours on making sure that your hair is gelled perfectly if you are a guy.  Was the officer provided with an expense account to make a $1000 "prom-posal" that included reservation of a helicopter that landed on the school lawn so he or she could step off with a single rose like some episode of The Batchelor--since "Hey, want to go to the prom with me?" is no longer consider a proper way to ask someone out?  And what do you do when a 15-year old girl who is desperate for your attention wants to send you "nudes" on Snapchat?

What really disturbs me is some of the comments you see from the "adults" under on-line stories about this operation.  They are "offended" that police would "spy on their children" like this.  Given that the officer was able to buy pot from two kids at the school, maybe it's the parents themselves that should be doing a little bit more "spying"--instead of a modern day Johnny Depp.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

One Question Left Unanswered

Amidst all of the criticism of police using deadly force against armed and unarmed suspects, I hope that the incident in Fond du Lac last night that left a Wisconsin State Patrol Trooper dead puts into context the dangers that law enforcement face every time they are called to an armed robbery, a domestic violence incident and even a routine traffic stop.  The possibility of an armed confrontation is ever present, and to expect officers, deputies and troopers to put that risk out of their minds is unfair and dangerous to all of us.

But one question does remain from the incident involving Milwaukee Police Officer Christopher Manney and Dontre Hamilton.  This week, the Milwaukee Police and Fire Commission upheld Chief Ed Flynn's firing of Manney for conducting an improper pat down of Hamilton after finding him sleeping a public park.  Manney was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing in the shooting however, because Hamilton attempted to grab his baton during the ensuing struggle and the officer feared for his safety.

So that begs the question: What is the proper response from a citizen when a law enforcement officer acts in an improper fashion?  Unlike the officers in the Michael Brown incident in Ferguson, Missouri and the Tony Robinson shooting in Madison, Manney was found to be acting without reasonable belief that a crime had been or was being committed. Brown was a suspect in a convenience store robbery.  Robinson had been jumping in front of cars and may have been involved in a fight in an apartment as the officer arrived on scene.  Dontre Hamilton was just lying on the sidewalk in a park--and the Police and Fire Commission decided that having bulges in his pockets did not warrant being frisked.

So what do the rest of us do if we are put in the same situation?  I don't spend much time sleeping on sidewalks, but based on the number of times I'm told I look "just like" someone somebody went to high school with or they used to work with I might look "just like" someone who does. Or what happens if someday I look "just like" the guy who just held up the gas station a few blocks away or the guy that was just involved in a fight outside a nearby bar and an officer wants to do a warrantless search of my person?  As those other incidents have shown, trying to grab the officer's gun or baton or punching him in the face are certainly NOT the answers.  But what is the solution that not only protects my civil rights--but also keeps an officer from feeling threatened?  Maybe that is a question Police Chiefs and Sheriffs can answer during press conferences--so that we can reduce the number of dangerous situations that require deadly force.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

On Golden Pond

I admit that I missed the episode of Home & Garden Television's Lakefront Bargain Hunt filmed here in Oshkosh when it premiered on Sunday night.  Seeing as how it was on opposite the Badgers Basketball game, it could have been hosted by Kate Upton and Crissy Tiegen in their bikinis and I still would not have flipped over.  But a co-worker here at the Radio Ranch--who has misplaced priorities--did tune in and filled me in on the episode.

He says that Oshkosh was portrayed as a quiet, peaceful lakeside town.  The houses the couple was shown--the husband being a big fisherman--weren't the fanciest on the lake but they were decent (remember the premise is to find a "bargain") and just required a little bit of work to be better--although the wife was made to appear hyper-critical of pretty much everything she saw.

What I find interesting is that the show chose to film here in Oshkosh in October.  I'm told that there were plenty of shots of colorful trees along the lake (and interestingly enough, they were apparently still leaves on the trees and no snow on the ground when they came back "two months later" to see what the couple had done with their new house--apparently they fudge on the "two months" thing).  But wouldn't it have been a lot more interesting if they had filmed the show along Lake Winnebago at some other times of the year?

Suppose they came around Mother's Day weekend in May when the HUGE lakefly hatch was underway.  Wouldn't it be fun to watch the realtor and the perspective buyers sprinting from their cars to the house--with their hands covering their mouths and pinching their noses to keep the bugs out?  The camera crews could focus in on the clouds of lakeflies that threaten to block out the sun.  The viewers could try to guess the color of the house underneath the thick layer of bugs coating the siding.  And when they come back to see what the couple had "done with the house" they could show them sweeping up the huge piles of dead lakeflies on the porch and in the driveway.

Or they could have filmed in early April after a big gizzard shad die off and when the turnover on the lake sends all of the dead fish to the surface and along the shoreline--where they pile up and rot in the sun.  Another good time would have been during a late July or early August heat wave when there is a blue-green algae bloom and people are told to keep themselves and their pets out of the lake to prevent toxic poisoning--and it smells like someone opened up a sewage pit in their backyard.  Another good time to film that episode would have been in late February or early March when the ice shoves are forming along the shore.  You don't think people living in Florida or California wouldn't enjoy watching giant piles of ice crushing the boathouse and the shed?  that's ratings gold!

So hopefully Lakefront Bargain Hunt can come back to Oshkosh during a more "interesting" time of the year--if for no other reason that to re-assure us "In-land" bargain hunters that we made the right decision.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Mandatory Exercising of Your Rights

President Obama set the internet atwitter late last week with an off-hand comment about making voting mandatory in the United States.  Liberals jumped on that immediately, praising the President for setting a clear path to "counter the influence of big money in elections" (like special interests on both ends of the political spectrum wouldn't spend even MORE money to influence even MORE voters).  It was also seen as a way to circumvent proof of identity and legal residency laws in a growing number of states (as if every person who doesn't have a legal ID or proof that they live in a particular ward and haven't voted in another part of town already is going to vote for Democrats).  Forgetting for a moment the Constitutional issues that the President ignores in pretty much everything he does, let's get down to what would really happen if voting was mandatory in the US.

First off, execution would require a complete overhaul of the manner in which we conduct elections.  If you live in a politically active area, you already know that lines can get long at the polls.  Now imagine if the 40% of people that don't vote are forced to be there in line as well.  That will lead those on the left to introduce a number of less-accountable ways to vote--such as mailing ballots to all voters (or make that addresses of people that may or may not still be there).  As any clerk will tell you, the polling books are filled with people that have moved without notice, died, or have done something that makes them no longer eligible to vote.  And try to imaging the expense of mailing out (and then likely having to cover the return postage because think of all those Democratic voters that can neither afford nor have access to a stamp).

Secondly, you are making people choose between candidates they don't actually support.  While most non-voting is simple laziness and ignorance, there is a certain percentage of the population that that doesn't like any of the candidates on the ballot.  What is their relief from this voting requirement then?  Will we add my proposed option "None Of The Above" to all races on all ballots?  And if "None" wins, forcing all of the parties to come up with new candidates until someone does win a majority?  Plus, is a person mandatorily voting required to choose a candidate in all races on the ballot?  I know I won't be voting for anyone in the Oshkosh Mayor's, City Council or School Board races next month--but I will in the Supreme Court race and in the Constitutional referendum.  Is that then a "legal ballot"--and who will be making sure that all ballots are "properly filled in"?

And finally, we aren't very good at enforcing a lot of "mandatory" things already.  11% of American men have never registered with Selective Service--even though that is mandatory when you turn 18.  17% of those who should be filing federal tax returns are not--even though that is mandatory.  There are somewhere between 12 and 20-Million people in the US who did not seek mandatory immigration status.  And there are still 41-Million Americans remain without health insurance--even though the Affordable Care Act requires them to have it. 

And the ACA serves as a perfect example of the expense and effort that would be put into making sure "all" Americans comply with mandatory voting.  I'm sure "Organizing for America" would be chomping at the bit to get the contracts to go into all neighborhoods and get people ballots, help them fill out the ballot ("All of the Democrats are in this column ma'am--that's all you need to fill out") and if someone isn't home or can't be contacted or has been dead for years and no one ever followed up on that, just file fake ballots to meet their assigned quotas.  And what would be the punishment for failing to vote?  Prison?  ("What are you in for?" "Didn't vote" "Wow, that's hardcore, man") Fines that no one will ever be able to collect?  Being banned from complaining about the idiots that run this country?

Oh, well.  I guess it's a small price to pay for "freedom".

Friday, March 20, 2015

Why We Don't "Pay" the Kids

I have a question for you today: If Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig and Josh Gasser played on a Second Division professional team called the Madison Mudpuppies that was coached by General Manager Bo Ryan would you watch their games?  Would you be excited to watch them perhaps face the Lexington, Kentucky Lynx--the top farm club of the Philadelphia 76ers with their ten guys who will all likely be called up to the big club next year--in the semi-finals of the National Minor League Championship Playoffs?  I bet you wouldn't.  I bet you would have no interest in watching any of the 63 knockout games that would played to determine the best non-NBA professional team in the country if such a tournament existed--even if they had cool brackets that allowed you to make picks beforehand and teams that maybe didn't do so well in their own league beat higher-rated teams from other leagues and they gave it a catchy name like March Mayhem.

I bring this up because the issue of paying NCAA basketball players is going around again following a hilarious skit by John Oliver last weekend on his HBO show Last Week Tonight where he takes the NCAA and the Men's Basketball Tournament to task for producing billions of dollars of revenue that do not result in any direct cash payments (none that are legal anyway) to the players themselves:

When you consider the billions that NCAA basketball generates (and even more coming in from football), don't you think some enterprising private sector entrepreneurs would have figured out a way to get at least a share of that?  Where are the 15 or 20 money men who get together and say "Let's get these very same guys to come play for us, where they can make some money, not have to pretend to go to classes and never have to worry about being suspended because their coach wanted to buy them lunch"?

Well I can tell you why that doesn't--and likely will never--happen: When it comes to intercollegiate sports, the name on the FRONT of the jersey is the only one that matters to fans.  And given the choice of watching--and paying to watch--non-NBA and non-NFL teams made up of paid athletes signed by a team or teams made up of unpaid enrollees at a school--the unpaid enrollees are going to win every time.  And if you don't think that is true, then name for me three players on our "hometown" minor league baseball team the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.  Or three players the Milwaukee Bucks have under development contracts in the D-League.  Most of those guys could still be playing collegiate ball--but they wanted to get paid cash for their talents--and so they toil away in relative anonymity.--where any of the NCAA athletes who feel that the current system is "unfair" to them can also choose to work anytime they want.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Here's Your Half Caf Mocha Soy Latte, Racist

It's too bad that I can't stand coffee and that my budget would never allow me to buy the incredibly overpriced products at Starbucks because I would really love to have a "conversation" about race with one of the servers.  Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is encouraging his employees to engage customers on race relations by writing "Race Together" on their cups.  I would love to hear their suggestions for improving the plight of poor, Black Americans in ways that don't involve expanding government programs and dependence.  And I'd like to know how they think not sending drug dealers or those who possess weapons illegally to prison just to decrease racial disparities in the criminal justice system will make minority neighborhoods safer and better places to live.  Plus, I can't think of a better expert to help me "understand" the state of race relations in the US than a 20-year old from Omro who works in a glorified break room.

And what happens if the server whom the customer chooses to "engage" in this conversation doesn't hold the same racial views as Mr Schultz?  I seem to recall instances where Starbucks customers found not-so-flattering descriptions on their coffee cups or on their receipts.  Are prospective employees going to have to take tests to determine their "tolerance levels"?  Will there be training sessions on "sensitivity" right after being shown how to wash out the milk steamer?

Just imagine if this "let me tell you what you should think" policy expanded to other forms of retail.  Every customer at Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A would be asked "Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?"  I'm guessing the professional protesters would be back out in front of those locations hoping to "save" customers from such "insensitive" questioning.  And I'm sure Hooters customers would really like to discuss the role of women in society and business while trying hard not to stare down the front of their waitress' tank top.

Rather than talking around the problem, might I suggest Howard Schultz actually take action to improve race relations in this country.  Why doesn't he provide low-income people of color with "transportation subsidies" as part of their compensation packages so that they can pay their own way to work in his coffee shops in well-to-do suburbs--instead of whining about a lack of taxpayer-funded transit systems in those areas?  Why doesn't he provide 50-cents from every grossly overpriced cup of coffee to the nearest low-income school districts instead of bemoaning a lack of taxpayer funding for those institutions?  And why doesn't he have his employees write "Don't do drugs" "Don't join gangs" "Don't have children out of wedlock" and "Don't buy this unless you are also saving for your child's college education" on their cups instead of griping that taxpayers don't provide enough money to the myriad of government programs that have to deal with the aftermath of those actions?

Consider it putting your money where your $6 small cup of coffee is.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What, Me Worrry?

If you are to believe all of the hubbub on sports talk radio and the 24-hour news channels yesterday, the retirement of former Badger and 49ers linebacker Chris Borland has NFL owners quaking in their shoes worried about the future of their sport.  All of the talking heads believe Borland's decision to stop playing football out of concern for suffering brain damage is a "game changer" that "doesn't bode well for the future of the league".

Well I'll tell you that the NFL has ZERO worries about Chris Borland stepping away from the game.  You know why?  Because about a month from now, all of those league and team officials will be in Chicago taking their pick from the hundreds of guys who would be more than happy to replace Chris Borland on the field at the NFL Draft.  Chris Borland has a degree from a world-class university and can return to his hometown of Kettering, Ohio to sell insurance or investments or real estate and have a pretty comfortable life without football.  But how many African-Americans from the streets of Miami or Houston or Los Angeles do think can just walk away from the possibility of millions in the NFL and have that same kind of life?  If THOSE guys start saying "it ain't worth it, man", then the NFL might be a little bit worried.

And when universities decide that they aren't going to continue to operate as free "minor league farm teams" for the NFL--churning out brain-damaged potential draft picks who have made a mockery of higher education ideals (I'm talking to you everyone in the SEC and THE Ohio State University) then the NFL might get worried.  Of course, what University President is going to give back all of that cash coming in from the Big Ten Network, or the SEC Network or the Pac-12 Network or the College Football Playoff?

And when high schools in Texas stop winning referenda allowing them to build multi-MILLION dollar football stadiums and training facilities--the NFL might get a little bit worried.  Or when the coaches on Friday Night Tykes all decide to go with flag football rules--or worse yet, soccer--for their kids instead of full-contact practices--then the NFL might start getting worried.

And when people stop lining up for weeks in order to be the first to buy the latest edition of the Madden NFL video game--the NFL might get a little bit worried.  Or when there aren't 15 fantasy football guides on the newsstand every summer, and there aren't 15-million fantasy football websites and when ESPN no longer dedicates entire hours of programming to picking your fantasy football team and when studies show that people aren't wasting 10-hours a week at work talking about or doing on-line research for their fantasy football teams--the NFL might start getting worried.

But here is when the NFL will get worried: When NFL football isn't the top-rated program on TV every week of the season.  When games, pre-game shows and post-game shows don't make up six of the top ten rated programs all season long.  When the Super Bowl doesn't generate record ratings every year.  When cable providers no longer pay a premium to carry NFL Network (out of fear of an avalanche of customer feedback demanding to see Thursday night games, and the combine) or all of the ESPN networks with their fanatical devotion to everything NFL all year 'round.  When four networks are no longer willing to give the league BILLIONS of dollars every year to televise the games.  When Visa no longer pays to be the "official card of the NFL" and Coca-Cola no longer wants to be the "official refreshment" and Subaru doesn't want to be the "official Crossover vehicle" THEN--and ONLY then--will the NFL start to "worry" about players deciding not to play out of concern for long-term brain damage.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

You're Not Building That

I always figured it would be Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett that would derail the new downtown arena and entertainment district project.  The new owners of the Bucks have already committed $150-million to the arena.  Former owner Herb Kohl is donating $100-million.  Governor Scott Walker surprised many by offering $220-million in taxpayer-backed municipal bonds for the project.  But Mayor Barrett has been dragging his feet, refusing to make any financial commitment to the arena project other than to say the city might create a Tax Incremental Financing District to cover the cost of infrastructure improvements.  By that, he probably means paying to tear up the surrounding streets so he can install tracks for his beloved streetcar system to bring all of those young (white) professionals who are clamoring to live in Downtown Milwaukee--but who just don't have a "retro cool" taxpayer-subsidized public transit format to use to get everywhere so they don't have to buy a car to events at the arena.

But then out of nowhere comes President Obama to perhaps block Milwaukee's shot at a new arena.  Tucked into the President's current budget proposal is a measure that would bar cities, counties and states from issuing tax-free municipal bonds to pay for sports stadiums and arenas.  It's the President's position that sports franchise owners are mostly billionaires and they can afford to pay for their own state-of-the-art facilities every 20-years or so--instead of having taxpayers do it for them--or threatening to leave town unless they get a good deal.  That would put the kibosh on the state's $220-million commitment to the Milwaukee arena project--a major hole that the owners of the Bucks likely would not be willing to fill with their cash (even though as President Obama would point out--two of the three principal owners are ranked in Forbes Magazine's 400 Richest Americans).

Given that the anti-stadium funding proposal is in the President's budget--and that Congress, even with a Democratic majority for his first two years in office has NEVER passed a budget during his entire term--it's unlikely that the death knell will fall on the Milwaukee arena plan from Washington.

 But what if President Obama decided to make this happen the way he does with pretty much everything else he wants to do?  Remember, he has a pen and he has a phone--and he is not afraid to use them.  Who's to stop him if he decides to just issue an Executive Order to block taxpayer funding of stadiums?  Actually, I would encourage him to do that--just so those on the "other side" get a little taste of that medicine.  Then he can use his phone to call up his "buddy" Tom Barrett and tell him that he's sorry that he killed the Milwaukee Bucks and any hope for redevelopment of downtown and the near north side in order to make sure that "rich people pay their fair share".  Of course--because he came up through politics doing things the "Chicago Way", he would salve the wound by offering Barrett additional Federal funding for his train set--I mean streetcar system--to take those young (white) professionals past the rotting hulk of the vacant Bradley Center every half hour.

Monday, March 16, 2015


Last week, a member of the Neenah High School Dance Team got high praise for refusing to perform to the song selected by her team.  Emma McLaughlin was put off by the words conatained in "Out of My Mind" by B.o, B featuring Nicki Minaj (because no one can perform by themselves anymore--you always have to "feature" someone too). 

I’m, I’m, I’m, I’m
I’m out of my, out of my mind
Out of my fucking mind
I’m, I’m
I’m out of my, out of my mind
Out of my mind
I’m, I’m
Out of my, out of my mind
I’m, I’m, I’m
I’m out of my, out of my mind
(Mind, mind, mind, mind)
I’m out of my fucking mind
Out of my fucking mind (Mind, mind, mind)

I’m out of my fucking mind, G-G-golly, oh my
I was doing fine, once upon a time
Then my brain left and it didn’t say bye
Don’t look at me wrong; I’m out of my mind
Like Nostradamus and da Vinci combined
So paranoid of espionage
I’m watching my doors and checking my blinds
My brain is on vacation, they telling me
And I’m bi-polar to the severity
And I need medication, apparently
And some electrocompulsive therapy
I am a rebel but yes I’m so militant
Still I’m eligible for disabilities
I am psychotic but there is no remedy
This is not figurative, this is literally
If these niggas go dumb, I go to the mental facility
See, man I’m so out there, I slap fives with E.T
I don’t need a feature, they don’t wanna?
When I’m on this beat
If you feel the same as me, then you gotta agree

I’m, I’m, I’m, I’m
I’m out of my, out of my mind
Out of my fucking mind
I’m, I’m
I’m out of my, out of my mind
Out of my mind
I’m, I’m
Out of my, out of my mind
I’m, I’m, I’m
I’m out of my, out of my mind
(Mind, mind, mind, mind)
I’m out of my fucking mind
Out of my fucking mind (Mind, mind, mind)

What’s your name? B.o.B?
So, they callin’ you Bob?
Stop playing, nigga, you know that I’m known for the Bob
Couple hit songs, got you thinking you a hearthrob
Well, this thang so good, make a nigga wanna sob
(Hmm, hmm)
You don’t need a feature?
Nigga, I’m the feature
You gon’ be the priest, and I’mma be the preacher
You can be the he-man, I’mma be the she-ra
You can be the Grim, I’mma be the Reaper
Now, now airplanes in the night skies
Are like shooting stars?
Well, you gon really need a wish right now
When my goons come through and start shooting stars
You know, I’m all about shoes and cars
I’m kinda drunk off blue Bacardi
I told Baby when I get my new advance
I’mma blow that motherfucker on a blue Bugatti
You know, I graduated summa cum laude
That’s why they thinking I’m Illuminati
And matter fact, let’s kiss and make-up
I’ll help you escape on my blue Ducati

I’m, I’m, I’m, I’m
I’m out of my, out of my mind
Out of my fucking mind
I’m, I’m
I’m out of my, out of my mind
Out of my mind
I’m, I’m
Out of my, out of my mind
I’m, I’m, I’m
I’m out of my, out of my mind (Mind, mind, mind, mind)
I’m out of my fucking mind
Out of my fucking mind (Mind, mind, mind)

I’m out of it
I can’t seem to come out of it
What’s going on inside of my head?
It feels like I’m being John Malkovich
Ladies and gentlemen, please turn it down a bit
There’s an announcement, I like to announce (It…)
Wait, how am I’m suppose to announce this shit?

I don’t need this song, I don’t need this nigga
Cause a nigga bring the noise like an onomonopia
Leave him in the dust, all he see is my Adidas
Na na na na boo boo, wouldn’t want to be ya
Never turnin’ back, how you think I got here?
And I’m never slowing down, fuck was that a deer?
If you got a problem, step to the office
Matter fact, never mind, talk to the Kiosk, Biatch
You have no idea
That’s why they call me B dot
Been a maniac ever since I was knee-high
I’m gonna need help, someone call Charter,
Maybe call FEMA cause I got to be crazy
Or outta my mind to have this many steps on my VISA

I’m, I’m, I’m, I’m
I’m out of my, out of my mind
Out of my fucking mind
I’m, I’m
I’m out of my, out of my mind
Out of my mind
I’m, I’m
Out of my, out of my mind
I’m, I’m, I’m
I’m out of my, out of my mind
(Mind, mind, mind, mind)
I’m out of my fucking mind
Out of my fucking mind (Mind, mind, mind)

Wait, if I’m here and you’re there?
And if I’m here and you’re there?
And if I’m here and you’re there?
And if I’m here and you’re there?
And if I’m here and you’re there?
And if I’m here and you’re there?

Um, yeah, yeah
Nicki, B.o.B, ho
(Shh… they might be listening)

A review of said lyrics shows a number of F-bombs and multiple uses of the "N-word"--but I'm guessing that the Neenah dancers were using a "radio edit" version of the song in order to get around that.  But Miss McLaughlin was still offended by the references to bi-polar disorder and the stigmatizing of mental health issues--and didn't want to perform.  School officials agreed with her that the song is unacceptable--but felt it would be "unfair to the team" to change their song at the last minute--so McLaughlin was allowed to sit out the performances without punishment and the dancers still got to play their offensive song.

As a referee, an umpire and a play-by-play guy, I am around high school sporting events a lot--and I can tell you that "Out of My Mind" is not the only questionable song selection being played in our gymnasiums and sports fields.  Sexual and misogynistic lyrics abound in many warm-up and timeout mixtapes.  Girls are told to "get that up all over me" and how much guys want to "tap that ass".  There have been a number of times that I have told my officiating partner that I am going to file formal complaints with the WIAA about the songs being played and push for a ban on recorded music during high school sporting events.  You want music before the game and at halftime?  Get your pep band to show up and stay for more than the National Anthem.

I can hear some of you saying "You're just are biased against Hip Hop and black artists".  Well, even Camp Randall Stadium favorite "Jump Around" is of questionable taste.  That song features lines like "If your girl steps up I smacking the ho'" and "I never eat a pig cuz a pig is a cop".  Now, you never hear those lyrics at a Badgers game because the audio engineer turns the music down before they come on (following myriad complaints in the early days of the tradition from campus officials).  But PA guys who think they are clever at several high school football fields I've been to let the song play all the way out.  And at the sectional semi-final game I did on the air last week, both student sections were more than enthusiastic in shouting "TEQUILA!!" during that moldy oldie played by the band.  So much for those anti-youth drinking messages.

I once asked an athletic director why they played such songs and if they were reviewed by administration before being blasted at ear-splitting levels over and over again in the gym.  I was told "that is what the kids want to hear".  Well I'm guessing that the kids would like to have Mountain Dew and pizza for every meal every day--but we don't give them that either, do we?

Friday, March 13, 2015

A No-Win Situation

Among the many things coming under fire during the scrutiny of officer-involved shootings of minority men is the concept of Community Policing.  Departments in places like Madison and Oshkosh have broken down their jurisdictions into smaller segments, often keeping the same officers on patrol in those areas so that those living in those neighborhoods might become familiar with them and build a level of trust.  To do that, those officers need to be seen often in those neighborhoods and to interact with residents.

But this week in an interview with CNN, a spokeswoman for Madison's Young, Gifted and Black Coalition told the anchor during an interview that "We don't want police in our neighborhoods all the time--looking for crime.  White people don't have to put up with that kind of scrutiny.  The police should only come when they are called." 

That spokeswoman's comments are in line with pre-Tony Robinson shooting positions held by the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition.  In an open letter to Police Chief Michael Koval published in the January 9th edition of the Wisconsin Gazette the same group says: "Although Madison's model of community policing and attempt to build trust between the community and police, even acting as “social workers,” may be a step above certain other communities, our arrest rates and incarceration disparities still top the nation. The relationship that we desire to have with the police is simple: no interaction. Our ultimate goal is to be able to hold our own communities accountable and to expel what we consider an occupying force in our neighborhoods. Our people need opportunities for self-determination, not policing."

As Chief Koval pointed out in his response, Community Policing was developed at the request of people living in the high crime neighborhoods--who had grown tired of the influence of drugs and crime--and that the idea of people policing themselves was laughable.

Back to the spokeswoman's comments to CNN, the officer involved in Tony Robinson's shooting was, in fact, called to that scene.  He wasn't out pulling over carloads of black teenagers for minor equipment violations to make a drug bust.  He wasn't stopping and frisking black men who match the description of a "suspicious person" reported in the area.  He was called to the Willy Street neighborhood on the report of Tony Robinson jumping in front of cars in the street.  Is that the most heinous crime in the history of mankind?  No.  But what would have been the community's response if Madison Police had told the callers, "Hey, why don't you 'self-determine' a way to get him to stop?"--which of course would be followed by the headlines: "Madison Police allow young, black man to be run over in the street--community demands better response."

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Ruination of the Game Continues

The Sporting News reports this week that Major League Baseball owners are getting ready to install the Designated Hitter rule in the National League.  The report cites concern from owners about interleague play causing teams to play under different rules and creating a competitive disadvantage, concern about pitchers getting hurt while hitting and a recent decline in scoring--that could drive away fans (more on that idiotic line of thinking later).

As a baseball purist, I HATE THE DESIGNATED HITTER!!  It is and forever will be my firmly-held belief that the nine men who play in the field should be the nine men who bat in the order.  The idea that one guy who can't field or throw at major league standards anymore gets to sit on the bench and still hit four or five times a game disgusts me.  What's more, American League baseball is BORING--with hardly any strategy involved.  The only thing an AL manager has to think about during a game is his starter's pitch count--while an NL manager could face a couple of situations where his pitcher--who is throwing well--may have to bat during a possible rally and you have to weigh his effectiveness against maybe getting one more run across the plate.

Maybe pitchers would be better hitters if they were given a chance through the lower levels of the game--where the DH is used 100% of the time--teaching younger players that the only thing that really matters is being able to hit home runs, don't worry about your fielding.  The irony is that most MLB pitchers were good hitters coming up--usually playing shortstop when they weren't on the mound--but as soon as they got to college or the minors, the DH took the bat out of their hands.

And what an advantage it is to have pitchers that can hit.  Why punish teams with good hitting hurlers by allowing teams with automatic outs in the number nine slot to substitute that with some guy who spends half the game back in the hitting cage below the grandstands working on his swing?  Plus, MLB is looking to cut the length of games--so having an occasional easy out helps to speed things along.  And when a pitcher is on the basepaths, you don't have the other pitcher throwing over the first base six times to "keep him close".  If you need a "player safety" argument, pitchers having to hit also keeps those stupid beanball spats to a minimum, since the guy who just threw at your slugger's head will have to get his own butt in the box next inning to face to music.

As for the "we need more offense" argument, consider that the most offensive period in baseball history is now a time that we can no longer celebrate--since that was the "Steroid Era".  Sure TV ratings were up to see how many homers Barry and Sammy and Mark were going to hit--but the game had to sell it's soul for those numbers--and NONE of those guys will EVER be in the Hall of Fame.

So instead of adding twelve more beefed up biceps and salaries to the rosters of National League teams, how about we GET RID of the DH in the American League so we can all play under the same rules and then call more strikes to pick up the pace of the game?  We'll leave the high-scoring shootouts for the fantasy geeks in the NFL and the attention-challenged fans of the NBA.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

My New Favorite Affordable Care Act Story

President Obama, his fellow Democrats and supporters of Government-run health care often complain that the reason the Affordable Care Act remains so unpopular with a majority of Americans is that the "good stories" about the ACA never get much attention.  Today, why don't we learn about a "success story" out of Iowa.

CoOportunity Health is an insurance co-operative founded in the wake of the ACA to provide coverage in the exchanges mandated by the law.  As a co-op, the company is owned by it's customers--a concept that was not common until the ACA created federal subsidies to establish such operations ($145 MILLION for CoOpportunity) and subsidies to its potential customers.  In addition, CoOpportunity didn't use actuarial tables to determine what the rates for its policies should be.  Instead, the organizers wanted to be what they called a "market disruptor"--setting their rates by what they thought was a "fair price" for people to pay for health insurance.  This "fair price" came in much lower than the rates of traditional private insurance companies.

As you might expect, CoOpportunity Health was very popular with Iowa consumers who were looking to buy insurance in the exchange.  In fact, it was so popular that the number of people who signed up for policies was far beyond what the organizers anticipated--but they were very happy that so many people now had "affordable health care".

However, this is where our story takes a turn for the worse.  You see, CoOpportunity's customers tended to be those people who didn't have health insurance before--usually due to a pre-existing or chronic condition.  And those people took advantage of their new, low-cost, generous benefits by going to the doctor--a lot.  So much in fact, that in just nine months of operations CoOportunity was more than $100-MILLION in the red--with no prospect of ever making up that deficit.  What's more, CoOportunity agreed to take on nearly 10-thousand Medicaid enrollees as part of Iowa's expansion of the program--only to find out that the money from Washington wasn't coming anywhere close to covering the cost of those enrollees (is any of this sounding familiar?)  It looked like CoOportunity was going to go out of business leaving hundreds of millions in debt and customers without anywhere else to go for coverage.

But there is a hero in this story.  The brave Taxpayers of Iowa with their magical deep pockets are coming to the rescue.  The state has taken over CoOpportunity's debts and is pumping tax dollars into its continued operation.  While enrollees were encouraged to seek other plans before the registration deadline last month, those who choose to stick with what they have get to pay 19% more in premiums--with the state likely to continue to pick up whatever costs that revenue fails to cover.

So there you go, a very happy ending to another Affordable Care Act "success" story.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

It's All About the Animals

Later this spring, the State Legislature is going to consider a bill that would place new rules on the secret recording of operations at Wisconsin farms.  Representative Lee Nerison of Westby is working on legislation that would require anyone who records or photographs suspected abuse of animals to turn that footage over to law enforcement immediately--as it could be considered evidence of a crime.

But the activist groups that send these undercover operatives to the farms are vehemently opposed to this proposed law.  You would think that anyone who claims to "care about the animals" would want anyone who abuses them to be brought to justice swiftly.  But giving up the footage or the pictures would no longer allow these groups to "control the narrative".

As things stand right now, the groups can shoot hundreds of hours of undercover footage and spend weeks carefully editing that down to just a few minutes of the worst animal treatment that they can find.  Then they work on carefully crafting press releases insinuating that the cows or other animals are treated like this on a regular basis at the farm.  Then they hold a press conference--looping the footage behind them over and over again--while providing the local TV stations with DVD copies of the carefully-edited footage.  Then it is posted on their Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and blog pages before it is finally turned over to law enforcement for "further investigation".  We talk to the cops, they say that they are "looking into the matter", the farm operator has "no comment" on the investigation" and the activist group rolls out of town looking like whistleblowing heroes.  Maybe a month or so later, prosecutors decide there isn't enough evidence to file any charges--or a couple of farmhands get hit with misdemeanors and pay small fines--but the operation is remembered as being "animal abusers".

Now consider what the process will be like if the requirement to go to law enforcement first goes into effect.  Investigators will want to see all of the videotape so that whatever incidents that are captured can be put into proper prospective.  And because the film becomes evidence in a criminal investigation, it will not be released to the media until formal charges are filed--if they ever are.  Those accused of the abuse will be questioned--with lawyers present if they so choose--and challenges could be made to the admissibility of that footage in a court of law--all of which prosecutors will have to weigh before choosing to file any charges.  And if no charges are filed, the groups can still release the tapes--but then we reporters can go to the DA and he can explain right away why no charges will be filed--and the farm operator can issue a statement of relief that no criminal activity was found.  The activists don't look like such "heroes" in that scenario, do they?

Groups that "uncover abuse" at large-scale dairy operations and slaughterhouses don't want their cases tried in courts of law.  They prefer to try "offenders" in the court of public opinion--where the burdens of proof--and rules on admissibility of evidence are far less stringent.  Remember, it's "all about the animals".

Monday, March 9, 2015

Madison's Good Timing

They say that in life, timing is everything.  That will likely prove true for the city of Madison as it deals with the shooting of an unarmed, black teenager by a white police officer last week.  Had this incident happened three months ago during the height of the tensions in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City, all of the news networks would have been broadcasting live all weekend from Madison.  There would have been cameras trained on the streets waiting for rioters to start looting stores and for armored police to start shooting tear gas canisters into the surging crowd.

But because the 24-hour news cycle has moved on, Madison will be spared from having that type of drama playing out on a national stage.  Even MSNBC is focusing on more important things now--like whether Scott Walker thinks President Obama is a Christian--and CNN is probing deeply into Hillary Clinton's email practices.  Even on the day when Attorney General Eric Holder was forced to admit that there was no evidence to refute the story presented by Ferguson Police in that shooting--and that no charges would be filed against the officer involved--the news channels were distracted by pictures of a weasel riding on the back of a woodpecker.

So that means Madison Mayor Paul Soglin won't be made to answer repeated questions about why African Americans living in his city face greater income inequality than anywhere else in the state.  (His guaranteed answer: "It's Scott Walker's fault")  Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate and current Madison School Board member Mary Burke won't be grilled as to why students of color perform worse in her schools than they do in Milwaukee schools.  (Her guaranteed answer: "It's Scott Walker's fault").

Madison also caught a break in that everyone who uses racial issues to get in front of TV cameras was in Selma, Alabama this weekend for the 50th anniversary of the "Bloody Sunday" march--so they couldn't be in Wisconsin to lead marches, give speeches on the Capitol steps and demand the immediate arrest, conviction and sentencing of the officer involved.  Perhaps they may show up later on this week--but that will only happen if the TV cameras are going to be there as well.

But the cameras and satellite trucks likely aren't going to come.  Because the folks in New York and Atlanta already know how this is going to play out.  The internal police investigation will find the officer acted in accordance with his training.  The state Department of Criminal Investigation will find no grounds for criminal charges and the federal Department of Justice (if the new Attorney General wants to follow the pattern of her predecessor and conduct an investigation into every incident like this across the country) will find that the officer did not violate the victim's civil rights--even though they really, really wish they could have.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Champ Is Here!!

Some of us who have reached a certain age can recall a time when the most famous athlete in the world was the Heavyweight Boxing Champion.  The list of titleholders reads like a Who's Who of sports legends: John Sullivan, James Corbett, Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Floyd Patterson, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis.

But could you name the current Heavyweight Champion(s)?

I could give you a year to answer that and unless you go to the internet, you aren't going to get it.  (It's either Ruslan Chagaev or Deontay Wilder--depending on which rankings you use.)  When was the last time you watched a heavyweight match?  Back in the day, a title fight was a primetime network television event--and was even carried across the country on radio--and it was must watch television. 

But somewhere along the line, greed got the better of the sport and the biggest fights moved exclusively to pay cable channels and pay-per-view.  The audience for boxing shrank smaller and smaller--as the opportunities to tune in became less and less.  I'm not even sure if the fights that gave Chagaev and Wilder their titles were even televised anywhere here in the US.

But NBC Television believes that it can bring back boxing.  Their new Saturday night fights series starts this weekend.  Five times this year NBC will feature title fights on regular TV--just like we used to get in the "good old days". 

Critics predict the venture will be a colossal failure--as nobody wants to watch boxing anymore.  We've "moved on" they say--pointing out that such a violent sport no longer appeals to anyone--especially with our new hyper-concern about head injuries and concussions.  America will tune in and "be disgusted" by what they see. 

How then do you explain the popularity of Mixed Martial Arts?  That's even more brutal than boxing has been since the bareknuckled, unlimited rounds days of the early 20th century.  And what has been the hottest topic in sports this week?  Rhonda Rousey's 14-second submission victory over her latest UFC opponent.

There will always be an interest in boxing--if for no other reason than it is one of our most primal sports.  It's one man versus another in a mix of strength, agility and will.  Hopefully, the ability to watch it (for free) on a regular basis might bring back some of that popularity--and hearing about who wears the belt doesn't elicit the response of "Who?"

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Sell It!!

Whenever the YMCA or other health clubs are looking for new members, they take to the airwaves and advertise.  Their commercials extoll the benefits of membership--better health, a stronger body, fun programs, activities for kids, etc, etc.  The same goes for any business that sells a product or a service--you tell people how what you provide can fix their problems and they ultimately choose to do business with you.

So let me be the first to invite our brothers and sisters in organized labor to do the same thing after the passage of Right To Work legislation here in Wisconsin.  With forced membership heading out the window, you are going to need to be responsive and more aggressive in getting your message out if you are going to compete with the alternative: non-union membership.

So save all of the impassioned speeches that were presented to State Senate and Assembly committees the past few weeks--those aren't the people you are trying to recruit for membership anyway.  Be ready to argue that union members make more money, are hurt less on the job, get better benefits packages and retire earlier.  Those should be great selling points that workers will jump at the opportunity to enjoy.

Get prominent union members to do testimonials for your organizations.  Studies show that hearing from satisfied customers is very persuasive for potential customers.  Round up all of those workers who rallied in Madison and put them in front of cameras and microphones to tell their stories.  (Although, you may want to pass on having the teachers who were re-instated to their jobs after being fired for watching porn in the classroom because the district failed to properly follow the grievance and termination procedures--they might not be so persuasive.)

We know that you have the money for these advertising campaigns.  We see your groups listed in the small print of the political attack ads every two years.  So instead of telling people to call Governor Scott Walker to tell him that he sucks, you can have people call your offices to find out how to join the union at their workplace.

Of course, the key to a successful advertising campaign is to actually deliver on what you promise.  If people don't see the value in the service that they purchase from you, you can make all the claims you want, but no one will be buying.  And maybe that is why organized labor fears open competition so much--because they can't deliver the goods.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Paying More For Less

On our way to out to Hawaii last month, my wife and I spent a day and a half in San Francisco.  The City By the Bay is one of those that has a voter-approved, higher-than-the-national minimum wage--currently $11.05 an hour.  That will increase every year until it reaches $15 an hour by 2018.  Please keep that little factoid in mind as I share our story.

We decided to end one of our nights in San Fran by grabbing some dessert at a well-known chocolatier.  Being a Friday night--and beautiful weather by Northern California standards--the place was very busy.  After placing our order at the counter (which featured a sign saying the price of the treats included a 4% surcharge for "San Francisco Health Initiatives"--more on that later) we tried to find a table in the dining area.  After a few minutes, a group left a table and my wife and I moved over there to claim it.

The group left quite the mess--with melted ice cream on the table and soiled menus as well.  After a few awkward minutes of standing by the dirty table the busboy finally came along to clear the dishes.  He set his tray on the table and then grabbed one glass and slowly placed it on the tray.  Then he grabbed one spoon and slowly placed that on the tray.  Then he grabbed one dirty napkin and slowly placed that on the tray.  Then he grabbed another dirty glass and slowly placed that on the tray.  At the pace he was going, we would have finished our sundae and been out the door before he finished clearing the dishes from the previous customers.

After finally getting all of the dishes off the table, our busboy walked off--leaving us with an ice cream and fudge-covered table top--which prevented us from touching the surface without becoming a gooey mess ourselves.  After a few more minutes, the same busboy returned with a wet rag and slowly began to push the slop around the tabletop--causing some to drip over the side.  The almost 15-minute cleanup process was completed just in time for our much-smaller-than-expected $10 hot fudge sundae to arrive at the table.

Now I'm going on the assumption that our less-than-expedient busser was making that minimum wage of $11.05 an hour--meaning that he was getting about 40% better pay than the busboys who work quicker and better at say, Two Brothers here in Oshkosh.  And without having to work any faster or to do a better job of cleaning his assigned tables, that same guy is looking at a raise next year, and in 2017 and in 2018 as well--until he is making double what those better same skillset workers are making here in Wisconsin.

And is Slow Busboy "earning" those pay increases?  Is the famous chocolatier saying "Wow, you are really busting your hump out there--you deserve a raise"?  No.  His "economic value" is increasing only because a bunch of voters (many of whom are NOT going anywhere near said chocolatier anytime soon) decided at the ballot box that he "deserves" more money--even if he isn't doing any more (or better) work.

And as for the 4% surcharge for "San Francisco Health Initiatives" that was added on to our sundae?  I can only guess that money is used to purchase the "medicinal" marijuana that every panhandler was smoking or reeked of having smoked near every bus stop and tourist attraction we stopped at during our visit to America's "Most Progressive" city.

I think we will skip what will likely be the $15 sundae the next time we visit.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Oh How We Have Missed the Clintons

Monday will not go down as a banner day for the power couple of Bill and Hillary Clinton.  First, the Former President's official portrait was unveiled to the public and the artist admitted to the media that the shadow that appears to fall upon the mantle is in fact that of a "blue dress".  I likely would have to explain what that means to our younger listeners--since Common Core History assuredly teaches that the impeachment of President Clinton was strictly a "Republican Witch Hunt to destroy the credibility of one of America's most popular Democratic Presidents" and not about lying under oath during a sexual harassment lawsuit deposition.

Nevertheless, the inclusion of the "dress shadow" is really a low blow.  If I was Bill Clinton, I'd call a press conference to put my foot through the portrait and then tell the painter "That's what I think about your 'artistic statement', jerk."  (As an aside, we've had photography for more than 150-years now--why do we still need "official portraits" of Presidents?)

Former First Lady/Senator/Secretary of State/Democratic Candidate for President Hillary Clinton found herself under greater scrutiny last night after the New York Times reported that while serving as Secretary of State, Clinton never established a government email account to do her business while in that office.  What's more, her private email transmissions were never saved to any government servers--meaning that all business Clinton transacted while Secretary could remain off-limits to the prying eyes of the press, other branches of Government and the rest of the public--unless of course, we want to take her to court to find out.

You cannot help but wonder what the impetus was for that decision?  Perhaps it was something as innocuous as the aging Former First Lady fearing she wouldn't be able to remember those outrageous government email addresses: madame.secretary.hillary.rodham-clinton@state.department.us.gov/business.  Or maybe she wasn't allowed to make "bluedress95" her password--since there's no way she would ever forget that one.

The more likely scenario is that Mrs. Clinton wanted to make sure that nobody would ever know who else was being provided the information contained in top secret correspondences from State Department Officials, the White House and other world leaders.  What Former President might have been blind carbon copied on negotiations, official statements and internal discussions?  And what think tanks may have provided "politically prudent" recommendations to Secretary Clinton to give her the appearance of being "qualified on foreign affairs when the time came to make the official announcement of her 2016 run for the White House?  Without those emails being in the public record, we may never know.  Unless Hillary and Bill leave the White House "flat broke" again--and need something juicy for the next ten-million dollar book advance.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Sure It's Paradise, But................

Against our better judgements, my wife and I have returned from our two week trip to Hawaii to the dark cold of Wisconsin.  I could regale you this morning with stories of spending time on tropical beaches, or the rounds of golf I played in the warm sunshine or getting about ten feet away from humpback whales during our sunset cruise off of Maui.  But to make you feel better I will tell you about the few things that aren't quite perfect about "paradise".

  • Milk and dairy products are insanely expensive.  There is nothing cheap anywhere in Hawaii (even locally grown produce) but the grocery store where we shopped in Koloa Town on Kauai was selling whole milk for $10.57 A GALLON!!  That was more than three times the price of gas on the island!  Needless to say, I bought my milk at Costco the rest of the trip--and even that was over $5.50 a gallon for 2%.  It was also difficult to find a decent selection of cheese slices in most grocery stores over there. 
  • They now have roundabouts over there too.  On our way to Costco on Kauai we traveled a brand-new stretch of highway featuring a brand-new roundabout--the first on the island.  A quick conversation with a local found that they hate them as much over there as we do over here.  Fortunately, it's just a single-lane roundabout--and not a two or three-lane--so the learning curve should be slightly shorter for those drivers.  Of course with mostly tourists--it will likely still be a disaster.
  • Everybody is a tourist.  One of the neat things about traveling to "exotic" locales is the chance to mingle with people of a different culture and background.  Unfortunately, that is almost impossible to find in Hawaii anymore--as every place you go is filled with people from another state--or who just moved there from another state.  It's hard to find "local flavor" anywhere anymore.  In addition, the businesses are important the vast majority of their employees now--with most from the Philippines, China or Southeast Asia.  Of course that may be a good thing because......
  • The locals aren't all that friendly.  "The Spirit of Aloha" is a popular catchphrase in Hawaii.  Tour buses are driven with it.  Stores sell it.  Airlines deliver it as soon as you board the plane.  But if you decide to leave the beaten path and explore the "real Hawaii"--don't expect much "Aloha".  Walking back to our Jeep from a North Shore beach on Oahu, a beat up pickup truck drove within inches of us and the locals inside shouted something we couldn't understand before speeding off.  They also enjoy leaving you as little room as possible when driving on rural roads in Kauai and Maui.  And we witnessed another beat up old truck revving its engine for 15-seconds while tailgating within inches of a rental car in downtown Lahaina--because the tourist was going a few miles under the speed limit.  I don't think the native people are so enamored with the big bucks the millions of visitors are bringing to their state.
So hopefully, that makes you all feel a little bit better about braving the dangerous wind chills while Michele and I were trying our best to deal with the elements in paradise.