Friday, May 29, 2015

We Just Keep Finding Out What's In the Law

No phrase in American political history has been as fertile a ground for proof of the incompetence of Government as then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's famous comment about the Affordable Care Act: "We have to pass the bill to find out what's in it."  Here we are six years along from that #facepalm moment, and we continue to find out "what was in it" includes some things that the people who claim to have written the bill didn't know were in there.

The latest challenge to the ACA's constitutionality centers on the subsidies provided to health insurance enrollees who purchase their policies through the Federal exchanges in states that didn't set up their own (including Wisconsin).  It seems that the law approved by Congress and signed by President Obama includes the phrase that says the Federal government will provide those subsidies only to those who use exchanges "established by the state"--meaning you could draw a reasonable legal inference that the subsidies could not be provided to those in the Federal exchanges.

Some of those who claim to have "written" the ACA bill claim that phrase wasn't meant to be in there.  Others say it was supposed to be in there--but they never thought that states wouldn't want to take on the expense of setting up and running their own exchanges.  Now we have 36-states without their own exchanges (including some that started out with their own--but then realized that was a losing proposition)--meaning about three-quarters of those getting the subsidies would be out of luck if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs.

To be fair, the original Affordable Care Act bill was more than 900-pages in length.  It would have been almost impossible for all of the Democrats that voted in favor of it to read through the measure--given all of the campaign fundraising that needs to be done and the last minute shopping they had to get done before the midnight Christmas Eve vote on the bill.  And then most of them were voted out of office--leaving them even less time to read the bill and the subsequent millions of words of regulations added on to the law since then.  Although, I do recall then-Senator Russ Feingold telling me directly here on WOSH that he had read every page of the ACA before he voted on it--so I have to wonder how the "Smartest Man in Congress" missed that?

Now the Supreme Court could always bail out the ignoramuses that approved the ACA again.  Remember, it was Chief Justice John Roberts that saved the measure in its first challenge by finding that the Individual Mandate clause was constitutional when considered to be a Federal "tax", even though the Obama Administration attorneys handling the case never actually made that argument!!  This time around, he might decide that "established by the state" could also include the Federal Government as well--even though the Constitution itself always delineates between "Congress" and "the states".  It's ironic in a way that those who didn't read the bill need to rely on a few people reading things in it that aren't actually there.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Let's Take Our Balls and Go Home

I think the time has come for the United States to get out of the international sports arena.  The arrests this week of top ranking soccer officials both in FIFA--the sport's global governing body--and CONCACAF--which oversees soccer here in North America--shows there is no legitimacy to the international competitions anymore.  So let's just sit out a few World Cups and Olympics until the rest of the world decides to clean up its act.

Anyone surprised by the FIFA arrests is either profoundly stupid--or is a FIFA executive (which is redundant, I guess).  The bribing of those responsible for deciding where to play World Cups and which corporations get to be "exclusive partners and sponsors" of said World Cups was an open secret for at least 25 years.  What is the only reason that people were arrested now?  Some of the bribery and plotting took place on US soil--that's why.  And because soccer really isn't that big a deal over here, our government doesn't live in fear of FIFA reprisals for decades to come.  Team USA is going to have a bunch of phantom calls go against it in World Cup qualifiying?  Big deal, NFL OTA's started last week, man--that's all I care about.

And the International Olympic Committee is no better.  We have seen executives of that body sent to prisons around the world for taking bribes as well.  And how much do you think everybody at the IOC made off the books by giving Vladimir Putin his Winter Olympics in Sochi--that somehow ended up costing FIVE TIMES as much to build all the venues and infrastructure than first estimated.
Personally, I wouldn't miss any of the international "World Championships" in all of the sports.  The NHL can put on the Canada Cup every four years like it used to determine the best hockey country in the world.  The NBA can invite champions from other country's leagues over to take on its champ to determine the best team on the planet.  And all four of the sports networks can televise Ice Capades to give everyone their figure skating fix--all without the nagging fear that the judges have already fixed the results.

Perhaps if the US drops out of the international sports arena, our companies that provide the billions of dollars fueling the greed at places like FIFA and the IOC will step back as well.  You could argue that the destruction of the Olympic "amateur ideal" came after Peter Ueberroth made a boatload of money for everybody at the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles by sponsoring everything under the sun.  A new "business model" was born--allowing those running the organizations to line their pockets.  Then maybe countries wouldn't have to change their laws to allow the sale of alcoholic beverages at sporting events--not because Brazilians knew that Germans and Brits would be coming thirsty to the World Cup--but rather because Budweiser is the "Official Beer" of the World Cup and FIFA made it a condition of getting the tournament that it would be served in all stadiums.  And how lucrative would it be to work for the IOC if NBC wasn't forking over a billion dollars by itself to put the Olympics on 15 networks for two weeks every four years in order to promote the 12th version of SVU?

One nice thing about the corruption of international sports is that it makes our American sports controversies look rather pale in comparison.  Nobody is going to arrest Tom Brady for deflating footballs.  And 12-hundred people in Qatar aren't going to die because Ryan Braun took steroids.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Who Should Be In the Cages?

I'm certainly not an "animal rights" activist--but the killing of a wolf at the Menominee Park Zoo over the weekend really gets my goat.  (I don't use the term "euthanization" because that really means to put down a suffering animal as an act of mercy.  The wolf killed was not suffering.)  It became the innocent victim of the irresponsibility of humans.

Oshkosh officials have provided us with few details, so all we know so far is that a child of an undisclosed age accessed an off-limits area around the wolf enclosure at the zoo last Friday--stuck his or her fingers through the fence and had them bitten by the wolf.  How the child got into the area we don't know, but I have a hunch that his or her parents didn't take the child back there on their own.  Which raises the question: why was a child running around unsupervised at the zoo?  I understand that you cannot keep an eye on your child 24/7 but in a setting such as a zoo--with restricted areas that are obviously a bit dangerous--I would think that would be one time you'd want to keep the little ones close by.

Or maybe the parents actually did bring the kid back there.  They probably thought the "KEEP OUT" or "EMPLOYEES ONLY" sign didn't pertain to them.  Or maybe they thought they "deserved" a special "close encounter" with the wolves and that their child should be allowed to "pet" the animals.  There have been hundreds of incidents in just the past few years of people jumping into moats or climbing over fences to get into animal enclosures because they wanted to "play with the beautiful creatures".  And before you go blaming the wolf for this, keep in mind that while he lived in a pen, he was still a wild animal.  He didn't see humans as "friends".  And when he had something that smelled like fresh meat shoved in front of his face, he did what a wolf does--he bites it.

So the bite incident happens and unfortunately doctors need to know if the wolf has rabies in order to determine what treatment the child will require.  That leaves zoo officials no choice but to kill an otherwise healthy animal for testing.  Killing the wolf didn't "send a message" to the other wolves in the exhibit not to bite the hand of children who are where they are not supposed to be.  It was a waste of not just the animal, but the work and money put into the exhibit by the Zoological Society and the City to purchase these wolves to replace the original pack that all died off a few years ago.

The cherry on top of all of this would be if the family of the child now sued the city for its "negligence".  I'm sure they can find hundreds of lawyers willing to take the case--seeing as how nobody has deeper pockets than municipal governments and taxpayers.  The attorneys will argue that the zoo "failed to properly secure their off-limit areas".  A sign saying KEEP OUT is not sufficient--the door or gate should have been triple-locked.  They will also claim that the designers of the exhibit should have known that people would go where they weren't supposed to go and not allow trespassers to get so close to the animals.  I'd even bet there will be an argument that the holes in the fence should have been too small for any person--regardless of size--to stick even a single finger into the enclosure.  By the time that trial is over, the jury will believe the Menominee Park Zoo is a death trap and that visitors are at risk of being attacked at all times.

Of course, we could always put the visitors in cages at the zoo, in order to protect the animals from their stupidity.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

You Reap What You Sow

Madison School District officials are patting themselves on the back for a sharp reduction in the number of out-of-school suspensions and in-school punishments for African-American students this school year.  They credit a new Behavior Education Plan that took the easiest possible route to reduce such punishments--they all but stopped handing out such discipline.  Under the new policy, counselors take disruptive students outside to "have a talk" and to "determine the real cause of their misbehavior" rather than subject kids to actual disciplinary action like detention.  It's the new "progressive approach" to school punishment--meant to make things "fair" for students or all ethnicities.

The only problem is, the new policy isn't actually improving student behavior in the classroom.  In fact, one eighth grade math teacher is quitting her job because she no longer feels safe at school.  Stephanie Bush is leading a group of teachers who say the new discipline policy is making things worse in the classroom instead of better. 

“I’m seeing behaviors on a regular basis that I haven’t seen in 20 years of teaching,” Bush said. Some of this alarming conduct included students swearing at teachers, kicking trash cans, walking out of class, and kids wandering the hallways and in and out of classrooms, she said in an article in the Cap Times newspaper. 

A fifth grade teacher--Margaret Stumpf--says: What’s more, a small group of disruptive students is exacerbating the misbehavior of others, Stumpf said. Still other students are frightened, she said, recounting the daily plea of “Miss Stumpf, I’m scared,” from one boy. Other students try to flee the classroom with bathroom excuses or visits to the nurse.

An internal poll finds 18-percent of Madison teachers as a whole--and just ten percent of middle school teachers say the new Behavior Education Plan is resulting in better student behavior.  But don't tell that to Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham: “I visit schools two or three times a week and in large part they are very joyful environments for students. I don’t want anyone to get the perception that our schools are out of control,” she said.  And of course, she want's more money to hire more counselors to deal with the increasing number of classroom disruptors.

The most important thing for Ms Cheatham and her other "progressive educators" is that her discipline numbers don't look "unfair".  Madison schools aren't being "intolerant" of cultural differences in behavior and discipline anymore.  And if that means a reduced educational experience for all of the other kids in those classes then at least everyone is "equal".

Friday, May 22, 2015

Who Needs To Know That Stuff?

As you might expect, educators are up in arms over a requirement up for consideration in the State Legislature that kids pass a citizenship test before they are allowed to graduate high school in Wisconsin.  The test would mirror that given to immigrant seeking citizenship and would feature 100 questions--of which 60 would have to be answered correctly to " pass".  (That by the way is another example of the dumbing down of America when 60% is considered to be "passing".)

The questions would include things like "How many justices sit on the US Supreme Court?" and "Who vetoes a bill?"  Not necessarily the most complex political and governmental issues--but stuff you kind of need to know to get along in this country.  (Although, many Americans who have lived here their entire lives would probably struggle to get 60% right--based on some sampling I have done in the past few days.)  And it seems like the kind of information that children are provided with starting in grade school in all of their Social Studies courses.

But teachers and administrators say it is just another "test they have to teach to" and that what the kids would be asked is nothing more than "trivia questions" and don't really determine what a student has "really learned" in their classes.  Perhaps they would be more amenable to the test if the questions were phrased to match what is actually being taught in Social Studies and History courses today.  Instead of "How many justices sit on the US Supreme Court?" the question could be "The Conservative majority of which branch of government has forever tilted political power to the 1% by allowing corporations to make political donations to Republican candidates?"  "Who vetoes a bill?" could be re-worded to read "President Obama is forced to use what power to kill bills approved by the Republican Congress that seek to further create income inequality and reward their 1% political donors?"  I bet today's public school students would have no problem answering those questions.

The only problem there is that the Constitutional section of the test might get a bit awkward.  For example: "The right to a 'living wage' is spelled out in which Amendment to the Constitution? A--The First, B--The Fourteenth, C--It's not in the Constitution but that doesn't matter because making $15 an hour is a basic Human Right that doesn't need to be codified in our laws."  Another tricky one would be "Which Constitutional Amendments really shouldn't be enforced in today's 'more enlightened society'? A--The First when free speech or the practice of religion pertains to something that doesn't fully support people of color, non-male gender, non-heterosexual orientation, non-Christian beliefs or makes anyone feel bad because no one should have to feel bad about anything.  B--The Second because nobody needs to have a gun--especially police officers trying to arrest young African-American men who are attacking them.  C--Both of the above."

Personally, I've grown tired of all the tests that kids have to pass to graduate now.  Don't we have a "right to be ignorant"?  I'm pretty sure it's in one of those Amendment things.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

But These Are the Schools We Wanted!!

If I was a resident of the Milwaukee School District, I would be pretty ticked off right now.  This week, the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee approved a provision that would allow an independent commissioner to take control of failing schools in the Milwaukee District.  That commissioner could fire administrators and teachers and restructure the schools as charter or voucher schools.  That authority would apply to three of the 55 failing schools in Milwaukee for the first couple of years--and then five a year after that.

What should get Milwaukee residents upset is that this process usurps the authority of the democratically-elected School Board that they have put into place. (A school board, by the way, that features seven of nine members who are current or former public sector employees.)  Those are the people that Milwaukee voters have chosen to lead their failing district.  They are the Board that hired the superintendent that hired the Administrators who hired the teachers in those 55 failing schools.  These are the leaders Milwaukee voters have gone to the polls and repeatedly returned to office--and to circumvent their authority with some non-elected commissioner is a slap in the face of self-governance and self-determination.  These are the schools that Milwaukee residents want.

What's more, the County Executive is given the power to appoint this new Failing School Commissioner--not the Mayor that Milwaukeeans alone elected.  Not the Mayor who believes a streetcar running from upscale residential developments to corporate offices and upscale entertainment districts will solve the problems of urban blight in the majority of his neighborhoods.  Not the Mayor who gives Milwaukee residents the city they want.  I'm actually surprised Joint Finance didn't give that oversight power to the Milwaukee County Sheriff who once famously suggested that the parents of truant students be arrested--like it's their responsibility to make sure their kids are in schools every day.  C'mon man!

So Milwaukee residents should join the chorus of Democrats in the Legislature and the liberal education groups that oppose this "Draconian measure" and insist upon local control of their school district.  I mean, how can you argue with the results so far?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

From the Home Office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin........

Another piece of my youth comes to an end tonight, as David Letterman hosts his final episode of the Late Show.  I've been a Dave fan since the early days of Late Night with David Letterman on NBC in the early 1980's.  Back then, WLUK Channel 11 didn't even show Dave's show immediately after the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.  Instead, they aired a couple of episodes of MASH or The Mary Tyler Moore Show before showing Late Night at 12:30 am--so you really had to be a fan to stay up that late.
For me, NBC Dave will always be the best.  It seemed like everyone associated with the show decided they were going to see just how much they could get away with on network television before they shut the whole thing down.  Thus you had the night that Dave put on a suit of Alka-Seltzer tablets and lowered himself into a giant tube of water--almost asphyxiating himself from the fumes:

And then there was the night that Dave sent Larry "Bud" Melmen to Grand Central Station to welcome people to New York City--except Larry "Bud" didn't seem to understand how the microphone worked:

And Dave used to feature the "underground" bands that all of us loved back in the day.  REM, The Replacement, The Ramones and Husker Du all got play and get national exposure that College Radio was never going to get them.
And then there was Dave's attitude.  He never hid his contempt for airheaded starlets whom he "had" to have on the show to promote their latest movie or TV show.  And who can ever forget when Crispin Glover came out one night and tried to karate kick Dave in the head:
But nothing will ever beat when Dave made NBC and its parent company General Electric the butt of the joke.  Like when Dave almost got roughed up by a GE security guard while trying to deliver a fruit basket to his new corporate overlords:
Or when Dave interrupted a live edition of the Today Show outside of 30-Rock with a bullhorn from his office:

I still remember that the pompous Bryant Gumbel demanded that Dave be fired or he wouldn't do Today anymore.

Unfortunately, working at 3:00 in the morning has meant far less watching of Dave for me over the past 15-years.  Plus, the show really lost its edge when it moved to the earlier time slot on CBS.  In fact, I probably won't even watch the finale tonight (and who schedules their final show on a Wednesday night anyway?) 

But anyway, thanks Dave for the Top Ten Lists, Larry "Bud" Melman, the Guy Who Lives Under the Stairs, Stupid Human Tricks and all of the other laughs over the years.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Making Less In America

Monday provided an excellent example of what life is going to be like in the "New, New, New Economy" here in the US.  In the morning, we spoke with one of the UW-Oshkosh graduates who won the America's Pitch Tank competition last week--a Shark Tank-style contest that saw business leaders select what they think could be the "next big thing" and to provide some cash for start-up costs, development or marketing.  The winning entry was a smartphone app that tells you what bars or parties in town are the best to go to on a Friday or Saturday night. 

A couple of hours later, we heard from Con-Agra Foods that they are shutting down one of their two Ripon cookie factories--leaving 320-people without jobs.  The two events showed the contrast between what used to be an economy where we Americans made things and sold them to each other--and the future economy where no one is going to be making anything.

The bar and party app sounds like a lot of fun and I'm sure that there is a segment of the population under the age of 30 that will find it incredibly handy--but is the developer of that app ever going to employ 320-people in a place like Ripon, Wisconsin?  And will that app be around for 70-years--employing generations of families?  Likely not.  It's a disposable, digital item that takes just a handful of people to create and operate--while computers take care of the rest.  In fact, none of the finalists for the Pitch Tank contest last week had any ideas that would lead to mass employment or product production.  "Too much overhead and start-up expense" the business "experts" would have told the would-be entrepreneurs.

Of course, businesses can only provide us with what we want.  When was the last time you bought a package of Rippin' Good Cookies?  I bet you probably grabbed the Keebler or Nabisco product right next to them because they were 15-cents cheaper, or the kids saw the commercial for them on Nickelodeon and that is what they want to eat.  Or maybe you don't buy cookies at all anymore.  You only eat "artisan" food--prepared by small bakeries using hand-ground flour and chocolate made by Swiss chocolatiers.  Or you are a socially-conscious shopper--buying food that is "certified organic", with "no genetically modified organisms", grown using "sustainable farming practices", with "fair trade chocolate" and "living wages for all workers" sold at your food co-op.  Or you are on one of the multiple fad diets featuring no carbs, no sugar or no gluten.  Or maybe you are taking Michelle Obama's advice and just eating food you can grow yourself.

Perhaps the folks at the Rippin Good Cookie factory can develop apps that "make cookies" that you have to put into certain orders to win gold coins on your smartphone--and that allows you to send requests for "more cookies" to your social media friends every day.  And the factory itself can be retooled to make "unlimited voice, text and data" or "rollover minutes" to sell to those glued to their smartphones and tablets 18-hours a day.  That seems to be the "business model of the future".

Monday, May 18, 2015

Engagement Over Education

Now that the spring semester is over, schools throughout the UW System will begin their cuts in anticipation of getting less money from the state--and another two-year tuition freeze.  Also, now that the spring semester is over, some of the instructors who took the early retirement package offered by UW-Oshkosh are providing me with plenty of materials pertaining to how the UW System spends their money--without fear of retribution on campus.  One of those questionable expenditures is how much the UW System spends on "employee engagement".

UW-Madison has posted an open position on its human resources page for the following position:

Coordinator for Employee Engagement, Inclusion and Diversity

University of Wisconsin-Madison   295 Reviews – Madison, WI
Apply on Career Site SavePosted 22 days ago

Job Description

The UW-Madison Office of Human Resources (OHR) is currently recruiting a Coordinator for Employee Engagement, Inclusion and Diversity.
The position is located within Talent Recruitment and Engagement in the Office of Talent Management in OHR at UW-Madison, and reports to the Director of Talent Recruitment and Engagement. The Talent Recruitment and Engagement group serves a central interface point with the campus community to recruit, retain, and sustain a high-quality workforce prepared to address the challenges of the 21st century in an educational environment.
The Coordinator for employee engagement, inclusion and diversity leads by actively engaging the UW-Madison community in education, strategy development and implementation, and data management to improve and sustain employee engagement, inclusion and diversity practices across the University.

So in five lines of that job posting, "engagement" or "engaging" is used seven times (perhaps they should hire someone in the English Department to review the Office of Human Resources' job posting and suggest a few new synonyms).  You will also notice that there is a "coordinator" and a "director" of Employee Engagement, Inclusion and Diversity--and likely a Director of Talent Management above them and of course, a Human Resources Director above them.  I also see the word "team" in there--meaning more than just one underling is making sure that everyone is "engaged" on campus.

I reviewed the corporate structure here at Cumulus Broadcasting, and I can't seem to find a "Coordinator for Employee Engagement, Inclusion and Diversity".  I'm also unable to locate a "Director of Talent Recruitment and Engagement" nor does there appear to be any members of a Talent Recruitment and Engagement group.  Despite not having any of those "engagement" officers, our company seems to be doing just fine. 

I would encourage you to stop by the front office at your job today and ask to see the "Coordinator for Employee Engagement, Inclusion and Diversity". When you are told that no such person exists at your company--say that you don't feel very "engaged" and that they should really spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring people in to help you "become engaged" or you won't be able to "address the challenges of the 21st century workplace".  You will probably be sent to the person who signs your checks--who will remind you that said checks should be all of the "incentive to be engaged" that you need to do your damn job.

Friday, May 15, 2015


Political scientists are jumping for joy over former Senator Russ Feingold's announcement yesterday that he is seeking a rematch against Senator Ron Johnson in 2016.  It's not very often that we get a former incumbent who seeks an immediate comeback against the guy who beat him in the last election cycle to serve as a true apples-to-apples comparison of the state of the electorate.  Add to that the fact that the two candidate are so diametrically opposed to each other on the political spectrum that there is no middle ground for voters to find--and this become a perfect case study for the consistency--or inconsistency--of Wisconsin politics.

If you believe polls conducted more than a year and a half before an election, this should be a cakewalk for Feingold, as the Marquette Law School gives him a 54 to 36% lead--and that was before he even announced.  But that same poll finds a full 40% of prospective voters have no opinion--good or bad--about Johnson--meaning a sitting politician has a rare chance to define himself for nearly half of the voters in the 18-months before the election.  Also in Feingold's favor is that 2016 is a Presidential election year--and no Wisconsin Republican has won a Senate race in a Presidential cycle since Robert Kasten in 1980.  (Although Santa Claus--I mean Herb Kohl was on the ballot for a few of those and who was going to beat your kindly, rich uncle in a popularity contest?)

Expect the 2016 Senate race to also be a referendum on the Affordable Care Act.  Fewer than half of voters support the law and just this week Families USA released a report that finds that 25% of people who gained insurance coverage under the individual mandate have not used it once in the past year and a half--likely because they can't afford the deductibles or co-pays.  So how strong is their support for having to keep paying their premiums--as required by the law?

Feingold's biggest challenge, however, is that he will still have to convince some portion of the state's electorate that they made a mistake in 2010.  Yes, Presidential year vote totals for Democrats "automatically" go up in Wisconsin, but Feingold can't just sit back and rely on the "I only vote every four years, straight ticket" folks to "automatically" make up the five percent gap from six years ago.  Sure, we have had one-term politicians--but rarely have they immediately lost to the person they beat in the previous election--it was usually a "fresh face with new ideas" that people voted for the next time around--not the guy with the "old ideas" they rejected the last time.  And if you know anything about people--we don't like to admit we made mistakes--even if we think we may have.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Where To Begin Your Search For Justice

Hundreds of people took to the streets of Madison yesterday looking for "justice" in the shooting of Tony Robinson, Junior by a Madison Police Officer.  They apparently didn't find it while conducting a "people's court" outside of the Madison Police Station--where they found the department "guilty" of murder and institutional racism.  They apparently didn't find it outside of the State Capitol building--where lawmakers were blamed for allowing law enforcement agencies to conduct investigations into officer-involved shootings instead of the United Nations.  And they apparently didn't find it outside of the Dane County Courthouse--where District Attorney Ismael Ozanne was called out for not filing criminal charges against the Officer Matt Kenny.  Perhaps the protesters aren't looking in the right place for "justice" in this death--but I can tell them where they might want to go.

For starters, I would encourage them to actually read the State Division of Criminal Investigation report on the Robinson shooting.  The victim and Officer Kenny didn't suddenly drop out of the sky to end up in the apartment building--there is a long chain of events on that fateful day that brought them together.  Perhaps the protesters should be seeking out the prosecution of the man identified as "Witness G.Z." who openly admits to investigators that he sold psychedelic mushrooms to Tony Robinson, Junior on the day of his death.  Why aren't they demanding that the man who regularly sold Xanax to Robinson without a prescription on the street face charges as well--as that fact is confirmed by more than a dozen witnesses interviewed for the investigation.  And where are the calls for the arrest of the man who sold Robinson marijuana that he used on that day as well?

Robinson's family have called the release of his drug use on that day "an effort to slander him".  But even they would have to admit that if the 19-year old had not used his SSI check that he cashed that day to purchase the marijuana, the Xanax and the 'shrooms, he almost certainly would not have been jumping in front of traffic that night.  He would not have been attacking people that night.  And he certainly would not have punched Officer Kenny in the dark hallway of the apartment complex.  Robinson's family also likes to say that he was "never allowed to reach his potential".  Apparently "Witness G.Z.", the Xanax dealer and the pot seller didn't see that "potential" in Robinson--or they wouldn't have sold him the drugs.  All they saw in him was easy cash--and if he was to die from doing the drugs, well there are dozens more just like him out there on the streets.

But "Witness G.Z.", Xanax guy and marijuana man were never mentioned by those seeking "justice" for Tony Robinson, Junior yesterday.  In fact, the group Young, Gifted and Black of Madison--which organized the protest--was also demanding the release of 350 African-Americans being held in the Dane County Jail for many of the same offenses.  Returning those who have set up so many other young, black men for failure, poverty and early death is "social justice" to those who marched in the streets on Wednesday.  Maybe that is why they are having such a hard time finding "real justice".

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Why We Will Never Be Aaron Rodgers

Sometimes it requires seeing someone outside of their natural element to understand their brilliance.  Such was the case with Aaron Rodgers' appearance on Celebrity Jeopardy last night.  I'm not about to anoint A-Rod as a "genius" because he won a trivia contest (let's admit, the show was "dumbed down" a bit from the usual range of categories and answers from a non-celebrity episode so as not to embarrass anybody)--but Aaron did show what makes him a great NFL quarterback even in a totally different setting. 

At no point in that show did you get the sense that Rodgers was not in total control of the situation.  He was by far the most relaxed of the three players. There was no fumbling for answers or ludicrous guesses because he panicked and rang in even though he didn't know the answer.  You could even tell in Double Jeopardy that he was trying to find the two Daily Doubles to build up an insurmountable lead.

And that is part of what separates Aaron Rodgers from the rest of us: incredible poise under pressure.   Really all three of the guys on the show last night have that.  I'm sure Mark Kelly had plenty of life-threatening emergencies that he had to deal with on the International Space Station and Kevin O'Leary has had billions of dollars on the line with business deals that he had to close under a tight deadline--but you could tell those guys weren't nearly as comfortable under the lights as Aaron was.  In fact, O'Leary constantly gave answers that made no sense given the category--which showed that he really doesn't listen to other people very well since Alex Trebek told them that Cities in Songs involves the names of cities in the titles of songs--and NEW JERSEY IS NOT A CITY!!

And the ultra-competitive will to win was also on display by Mr Rodgers last night as well.  Did you notice that when he missed the Daily Double about Steve Wozniak (IBM? Really?) Aaron mouthed a profanity like he was mad at himself for blowing it?  Everybody went home with some cash for their charity last night--but you could tell Number 12 had no intention of going home with less than the 50-grand for the MACC Fund.  (I'd be willing to bet that the folks at Milwaukee's own Harley-Davidson will be in contact with Aaron about some of their fine products this week as well given the layup that was the Final Jeopardy clue).

The late ESPN SportsCenter anchor Stuart Scott brought the phrase "Cool as the other side of the pillow" into the popular lexicon.  I think it's safe to say that Aaron Rodgers keeps his pillows in the freezer.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Taxation By Litigation

Get ready to have your taxes increased by a judge.  Normally that is a power that those on the bench do not have--but State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers is raising the possibility that those served by some public schools in Wisconsin will go to court to increase their funding.

Evers brought up the subject over the weekend on Upfront With Mike Gousha while discussing more potential budget cuts from Madison for public schools.  Evers believes that the current system of school funding--with revenue caps that can only be exceeded through referendum approval of residents will create a system of "have and have nots" across the state.  Districts that win referenda and spend more on schools will have an "advantage" over districts that are either unable or unwilling to convince voters to pay more in taxes.  And anytime you have an "advantage", someone is going to come along and sue to take it away.

Now you may think that Superintendent Evers brought up this subject to serve as a "warning to taxpayers"--but we all know that Evers doesn't give a rats behind about taxpayers--or else he would be working with schools to provide the most efficient educational system possible for what we are willing to pay--instead of spending every waking second complaining about school funding.  I think the Superintendent brought up the possibility of litigation as a suggestion to those who feel--like him--that any amount spent on education is never enough.

Evers is planting an idea in the minds of WEAC members in hard-line districts for a way to work around the will of the majority of the people living there.  Now they can bring the idea of suing the schools to their PTO's and their PTA's looking for that one "concerned" parent willing to take on the up-front expense of funding a lawsuit demanding "equity" for their schools.

And it is far easier to convince one person in a robe with a gavel that schools should be given more tax money than it is to convince 50% plus one person of the district's population in a referendum.  That's why you don't see big school referenda on the same ballot at the races for President or Governor--but they are instead held in April or even the February primary--fewer people to convince to vote yes--they learned that lesson the hard way after the new system first went into place.

Then the big question becomes what is "educational equity"?  Does the Taj Mahal of Wisconsin High Schools--the new Bay Port High in Howard-Suamico--become the standard by which all other buildings in the state are compared?  Will tiny Stockbridge have to add a Solarium to their building so that it's kids are "equitable" with the Bay Port students?  If the Oshkosh School District provides iPads to all of their students does the Wabeno and Laona Districts have to as well?  And so those tablets can be used at home, does Forest County have to fund rural broadband projects like Fond du Lac County is?  (Of course, it is possible that a judge could decide to institute "equity" by going the opposite direction and ordering the iPads and the wi-fi out of the schools and requiring everyone to go back to slide rules--but that is highly unlikely--especially when you consider that these lawsuits will end up in front of "friendly" judges in Dane or Milwaukee counties--and besides, the majority of voters here approved buying the iPads so their will should be done.)

It looks like Wisconsin schools are going to have to add a fourth "R" to the old adage: Reading, 'Righting, Rithmetic and Rule of Decision.               

Monday, May 11, 2015

This Is Your Life

We have a new "thing" in the media now.  Whenever a regular person that we don't know anything about is involved in something heinous or tragic, we go to their social media sites to try and "learn more about why they would have done this".

When the Trestle Trail Bridge shooter was identified, I was sent links to his Facebook page and told to check out the videos that he had posted of shooting demonstrations.  Then there was a post placed on the wall by his ex-fiancée (or not ex-fiancée depending on whose story you believe).  I'm actually surprised that more wasn't made of his listing of the Koran as one of his favorite books--because who doesn't love a good "possible ties to terrorist groups?" angle to this kind of story?

The same thing happened Friday after we received the alert about a missing and endangered man in Utica.  I received texts and emails of pictures on his Facebook account of assault rifles--which of course raises the concern that there is a armed man roaming the countryside looking for people to shoot.  Social media may provide us a look into a person's life--but it is certainly not an accurate portrayal of who we are.

That made me consider what would be reported if I was ever involved in something heinous.  You could expect the media stories to include a line like: "Krause may have been driven to act by the Boston Bruins losing to the Montreal Canadiens--or perhaps by having a driver gun it in front of him in a roundabout along Witzel Avenue for the one-thousandth time."  If I ever go missing expect to hear: "based on Mr Krause's Facebook postings, police believe he may be either on a golf course somewhere in Northeast Wisconsin--or in Hawaii."  And if my wife ever kills me in my sleep: "Police believe the victim's wife may have killed him due to her bizarre infatuation with baby elephants."

It would probably be best if we all passed on using social media to play Amateur Criminal Psychologist because you know how the old saying goes--you can't judge a Twitterer by his profile picture.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Don't Be So Hard On Yourself, Bill

The legacy of former President Bill Clinton is under attack again.  And the main hatchet man is none other than William Jefferson Clinton himself.  President Clinton started his self-bashing in 2013 by attacking the Defense of Marriage Act--which he signed into law in 1996 and that required the Federal Government to not recognize the legality of same-sex marriages and did not require states to recognize same sex marriages performed in other states.  That bill was passed with veto-proof bi-partisan support with Democratic lawmakers serving as proud co-sponsors.  But a certain someone Bill knows--and who also supported the measure--now needs the support of gays to win an election, so he must tear down his own accomplishments.

Now, the former President is turning his attack another major accomplishment from his term in office: the Federal "3 Strikes and You're Out" law.  This is the "get tough on crime" bill that Clinton signed into law in 1994 after overwhelming bi-partisan support in Congress.  The measure was simple, commit three violent, Federal offenses and spend the rest of your life in prison.  You have to remember, this was the time of drive-by shootings, rampant gang violence in cities and crack cocaine destroying urban areas.  Even First Lady Hillary Clinton called the measure a "well-thought out crime bill that is both smart and tough" in a 1994 interview.  She said that the crime bill would keep violent offenders locked up "so they could never get out again" and touted the "three strikes" provision specifically.  "We will finally be able to say, loudly and clearly, that for repeat, violent, criminal offenders: three strikes and you're out. We are tired of putting you back in through the revolving door," Clinton said in 1994.

But now the former President says 3 Strikes and You're Out was a mistake because too many (black) people committed the third strike and now sit in prison forever--and he is willing to shoulder the blame for that.  Clinton tells CNN "We have too many people in prison".  Really, Mr President, that isn't your fault.  Think about it, these are people who have committed THREE Federal offenses.  They weren't just given a second chance to live within the rules of society, they were given a third chance and they still couldn't abide by the laws.  But a certain someone Bill knows--and who also supported the measure--now needs the support of African-Americans to win an election, he must tear down his own accomplishments.

President Clinton's self-bashing won't end here.  Up next will be the Welfare Reform measures that he signed into law in 1996.  The bi-paritisan Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act did away with direct cash payments to welfare recipients, it required recipients to actively seek and keep work, it required job training and education to continue to receive benefits and it reduced the number of people on the dole significantly.  "This is the end of Big Government" Clinton said with a smile to thunderous applause.  But by taking people off the welfare rolls, Clinton took away Democrats main political threat for poor people "Republicans want to cut your benefits!"--and perhaps that led to George W Bush winning two elections.  President Obama has since undone many of the reforms accomplished by Clinton and put even more people on the dole.  But since someone Bill knows--and who also supported the measure--now needs the support of poor people to win an election, he must tear down his own accomplishments.

And soon after that, President Clinton will need to tear down NAFTA and all of the other free trade agreements that he signed as President as well.  Clinton supported the bi-partisan NAFTA bill whole-heartedly--in large part because his good friends in the Walton family would benefit from it immensely at their Walmart stores.  Bill just rolled his eyes when Ross Perot talked about his "giant sucking sound" in the debates and the likely loss of American textile and manufacturing jobs.  But a certain someone Bill knows--and who also supported the measure--now needs the support of big labor unions to win an election, and so he must tear down his own accomplishments.

If Hillary Clinton manages to make it all the way to November of next year as the Democratic candidate--poor Bill will have her voters believing that he was the worst President in the history of the country.  Perhaps that is her way of getting back at him for the decades of embarrassment leading up to this.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!

I had to chuckle at the stream of celebratory press releases from lawmakers and business groups yesterday after the State Senate approved the bill raising the speed limit on Wisconsin interstates and expressways to 70 miles per hour.  You would have thought that we were going from the wagon train to bullet trains the way some people were talking about the "time savings" that will occur now that we can go a whole five miles an hour faster along some roads.

Don't get me wrong, I like going fast as much as the next guy.  Driving the German Autobahn in a Ferrari Enzo while blasting Van Halen's Panama--or maybe in a Mercedes SLR with Beethoven on the Blaupunkt, I can never decide--is definitely on the bucket list.  But I also understand math and physics and I know that going from 65 to 70 is really no big deal.

Whereas going from 55 to 65 was an 18% increase in speed, going from 65 to 70 is just a 7% increase.  You will be covering 1.17 miles per minute at 70--while you were doing 1.08 miles a minute at 65.  To put that into the context of time, your 19-mile drive from Oshkosh to Appleton used to take 17-minutes and 34 seconds.  At 70 it will take you 16-minutes and 15 seconds.  A time savings of 1-minute and 19 seconds.  A trip from Oshkosh to Green Bay is going from 46-minutes and 18-seconds to 42-minutes and 45-seconds.  A less than three-and-a-half minute difference.

And it's not like we here in the Fox Valley are going to be able to take advantage of the higher limits immediately after they are enacted.  The 441/41 interchange will be a mess for another couple of years.  You have the I-41 reconstruction zone north of Menasha to Appleton and the mess on the west side of Green Bay for a couple years as well.  And then comes the expansion of 41 between Green Bay and Kaukauna a few years after all of the other construction is done and we'll have as much 55-mile an hour highway as we do 70 through the end of the decade.  Don't expect to cut a half hour off your trip to Mitchell Airport or Miller Park either--as the limit on I-41 and 90/94 in Milwaukee County will not be going up either.  And neither will the stretches of 41 north of Green Bay to Marinette or 151 between Waupun and Madison due to at-grade crossings along those stretches (that provision was added in the Senate version of the bill).

So set your cruise control to 77 now instead of 72 and try to think of what to do with the extra one to three minutes you are going to save on that next trip.  I guess I could use that time to watch more Youtube videos of guys doing 189 on the Autobahn.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Just Say NO.....At the Doctor's Office

Earlier this year the VA clinic in Tomah garnered national attention after whistleblowers exposed practices of over-prescription of opiates for patients leading to the death of at least two vets.  Last week, a number of 'heroin summits" were held around the area to inform people about the ever-growing presence of the drug in our communities.  And next week, law enforcement agencies across the state will be taking part in a giant prescription drug drop-off effort--where thousands of pounds of unused pills will be collected for disposal.  At what point in these on-going investigations, conversations and eradications do we talk about the fact that we Americans take way too many painkilling pills?

In the Tomah controversy, it had become the accepted practice for nearly any patient complaining of discomfort to be prescribed painkillers.  If the whistleblowers are correct, doctors were overwhelmed with veterans seeking treatment--and writing out a prescription to make pain go away--rather than do a full diagnosis to determine the cause of the pain became the quick and easy route.  Unfortunately for at least two vets, those doctors didn't keep track of what had already been prescribed--and they ended up dying.

Last week's heroin summit in Fond du Lac had the title "It doesn't start with heroin"--and they are right.  The majority of users didn't wake up one day and say "Hey, I'm going to start using heroin!"  They didn't have a needle passed to them by someone at a party or outside of a bar saying "Hey, Man, you gotta try this stuff--it's awesome, Man!"  Most users were actually addicted to opiate-based painkillers--but once their doctor cut off their prescription, they had to find a cheap and available substitute to get their fix.

Meanwhile, many painkillers will be going into the collection boxes at those drug drop-offs next week.  Pills that were prescribed for common injuries like a backache, a sprained ankle, a broken wrist or maybe a knee that "just doesn't feel right".  And part of the reason that we need to have these drug drop-off days is because the aforementioned heroin addicts would have no problem going through your garbage or breaking into your house to steal them.
While it would be easy to blame doctors for the "here are some painkillers, now get out of my office" practice of medicine that is becoming so prevalent--they are only giving the patients what they want.  For some reason, we as a society have decide that no one should ever experience any physical discomfort at any time.  Much of that is due to the aggressive marketing of prescription drugs that can relieve the symptoms of any malady you can imagine--or imagine that you have in some cases.  So patients come to the doctor's office now with the full expectation that they should leave with some pill to guarantee a "cure".  "Ask your doctor is such-and-such drug is right for you!" hits home for a lot of people.

I flat our refuse to take any kind of painkiller--even asprin or ibuprofen.  I was prescribed painkillers once--but I never filled the prescription.  I was playing softball one night and lunged to make a play on a ball to my right.  I felt something pull in my back and the muscles immediately seized up.  At the doctor's office the next day, he had me try to bend over as far as I could and he made me walk across the room on the heels of my feet.  After about two minutes of "examination" he said it was probably a pulled muscle--and he gave me prescriptions for an anti-inflammatory and for Vicodin.  As fate would have it, this visit to the doctor's office came less than a week after Brett Favre had his emotional "I'm addicted to Vicodin" press conference--so when I saw that on the prescription note I knew there was no way I was taking that drug.  Instead, I just gutted it out--and made sure to do more stretching exercises and weight lifting for my back to strengthen the muscles.

Perhaps if more of us were reminded that some pain is a part of life--and that the old-fashioned practice of "gutting it out" might be the best medicine--we could make some real headway in the fight against heroin and painkiller addiction.  Ask you doctor if living with a manageable amount of pain is right for you--and society.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Having Serious Discussions

Get ready for another round of op-ed pieces, blog posts, story comments and letters to the editor saying that it is "time to have a serious discussion" following Sunday's tragedy in Menasha.  Some of you will want to talk about gun control.  Some of you want to talk about mental health treatment.  Okay then, let's talk.

First, let's talk "seriously" about gun control. We can start by running through the existing and proposed gun control measures and see how they would have prevented what happened in Menasha:

--Expanded background checks: The Menasha gunman was a Air Force veteran, had no criminal record and no history of mental illness.  There would have been no red flags to prevent the purchase of his weapons had he tried to buy them at a gun show, through Craigslist or on Ebay.

--Waiting periods to buy guns: The Menasha gunman was upset over a fight with his former fiancée the day of the shooting.  Obviously he already had the weapons in his possession and didn't have to wait two days to purchase them.

--Ban assault rifles: This gunman used two handguns.

--Ban handguns: There are 270-MILLION guns in the US.  How do you propose to confiscate all of those? And keep in mind that a good percentage of those are already illegally possessed--and the only ideas we've come up with to get those off the street are "buyback programs" (which actually encourage the additional theft of guns) and setting up fake storefronts with the intention of selling illegal firearms and tracking where they go--only to lose track of the guns and the people who bought them.

While you consider all of that, let's switch our focus to additional mental health programs.  After decades of forcing people into asylums for anti-social behavior, nearly all treatment for mental health is done on a voluntary, outpatient basis today.  It's more "humane" that way is what we are told.  The Menasha gunman's apparent spiral started about a week ago--when his former fiancée canceled their wedding.  Should the caterers and banquet hall operators have alerted someone at Human Services "Hey, we have a couple breaking up--you may want to send over some counselors".  Do those that leave co-dependent relationships "have a responsibility" to make sure the other person "is talking to someone about their issues"?  And should "mood balancing" drugs be available over the counter, 24-hours a day for those who just had something bad happen to them and they just can't see someone right away to get rid of homicidal thoughts running through their minds?

Here's my theory on what happened on Sunday.  The former fiancée tells the gunman that they are through.  He sees no reason to keep on living without her--but instead of killing her and himself--and basically ending their relationship there--he decides to take another route.  So he picks out the Trestle Trial Bridge.  Maybe that is where they went on a first date--or where they used to take long walks together or maybe its where he proposed.  and by senselessly killing three people--critically wounding another--and taking his own life, he "forces" her to "live with that" for the rest of her life.  And where did I come up with this theory?  From the plot lines of dozens of crime drama TV shows like Law and Order, NCIS or Castle--and several blockbuster movies over the past 30-years. 

If you think that legislation and medication are the solutions to preventing all incidents like the one we just had in Menasha, you had better rest your voice--because you are going to continue to have "serious conversations" for a really long time.

Monday, May 4, 2015

They Fired the Wrong Guy

Some Brewers fan may be celebrating the firing of manager Ron Roenicke today.  The Crew's 7-18 start is the worst in baseball--and for awhile looked like it would be the worst in National League history.  A pathetic performance like that certainly warrants "corrective action"--but as far as I'm concerned, the Brewers fired the wrong guy yesterday.  Or maybe, not enough guys.

While Ron Roenicke will never be confused for Tony LaRussa or Bruce Bochy when it comes to in-game management, I thought he was doing about the best he could with a roster that features little big-time, big league talent.  And the blame for that has to be put squarely on team President and General Manager Doug Melvin.

Last year's second half collapse was put mainly on Roenicke--but when you look at the analytics of the Brewers roster, it was merely the entire team returning to their career averages.  They had just been playing over their heads for the first couple of months--and the numbers caught up to them in the long run--as they almost always do in baseball.  But don't toss numbers around with Doug Melvin.  He thinks that the Carlos Gomez that was ripping line drives all over the ballpark in the first half of last year and the Ryan Braun that hit clutch homer after clutch homer during his "performance enhanced days" are the "real" Carlos Gomez and Ryan Braun.  And that the pitchers who throw a lot of innings but never seem to win any games are somehow going to break losing streaks.  And that relievers who have never thrown strikes are suddenly going to find the strike zone under the tutelage of Rick Kranitz.

Consider that a team that suffered the collapse the Brewers did last year made no significant off-season acquisitions to shore up any of their deficiencies and you can see that Ron Roenicke was set up for failure by Doug Melvin.  You could blame injuries to the often-banged-up Gomez and Braun and Scooter Gennett and the freak broken toe suffered by Jonathan Lucroy--but the fact that only Martin Maldonado at catcher has been the only credible replacement shows you the lack of talent in the minor league system as well--a direct result of poor drafting by Doug Melvin as well.

It's ironic that Roenicke's firing came after the Brewers won their first series of the year--taking two of three from the Chicago Cubs.  A Cubs franchise that everyone agrees is poised to be a power in the National League for years to come--with a young roster built by analytics guru Theo Epstein--who used the same system to build the Boston Red Sox into a perennial power in the American League--and who is the antithesis of Doug Melvin in Milwaukee.

Of course, Doug isn't going to fire himself--so Brewers fans will have to hope that eventually Brewers owner Mark Attanasio will remove whatever wool has been pulled over his eyes and realize that this franchise is going nowhere fast--regardless of who is calling the shots in the dugout.

Friday, May 1, 2015

There Go Those Mean-Spirited Conservatives Again....

Conservatives are being mean to people again.  Yesterday, an Assembly committee held a hearing on proposals to place a few new restrictions on recipients of Unemployment, welfare and food stamps in Wisconsin.  They would include drug testing to receive benefits (with treatment provided to those who fail) and tighter limits on what can be purchased with the ETF cards provided  to those in the Foodshare program.

Personally, I have a bit of a problem with the drug testing requirement--as other states have found out that relatively few people fail.  That would seem to make it a waste of money.  However, when you talk with employers in this area, they still find the majority of applicants can't pass a pre-employment drug screening--so maybe the threat of testing for benefits actually does serve a purpose other than to catch dopers and crackheads.

My favorite measure though, is the new limits on what you can buy with food stamps.  That is where Democrats accuse Republicans of "being mean".  Shellfish like crab, lobster and shrimp would no longer be qualifying purchases.  Democrats are quick to claim that nobody is buying lobster with FoodShare cards.  However, audits and media reports seem to indicate the opposite--as it is not the people actually filing the claims for benefits that are making those purchases, but rather the people buying the cards on the illegal secondary sales market.  You see, all a person has to do is claim they "lost" their original ETF card and they get a new one--which is reloaded with the full value that the fraudster just got cash for on Facebook and Craigslist.

The Wisconsin GOP is not alone in their "mean-spiritedness".  Kansas just passed sweeping welfare reform that included legislation banning the use of government-issued ETF cards at liquor stores, casinos and strip clubs.  Democrats there have also cried foul, accusing the Republicans of trying to legislate against a person's "right to have fun" regardless of income.  There are also jokes that lawmakers themselves shouldn't be allowed to spend their government-provided income at such places either--just to make things "fair".  I have seen here in Wisconsin liquor stores with "We accept FoodShare" signs in their windows--plausibly for the large selection of "nuitritious food items" that populate two shelves in the whole store.  And there isn't a casino in the state that doesn't have ATM's loaded with cash--that likely don't know the difference between a card issued by a bank or one issued by a government agency.

But to bring this to a point, if you gave the same amount of money to charities to help the poor and unemployed as you did to Uncle Sam and the state for similar programs, would you have no problem if the charity gave the people it helped money to buy drugs?  Would you be okay if it set up tables at strip clubs and casinos to help those who "can't quite make it rain" or who are "just one slot machine pull away from striking it rich"?  And would you write a check to fund a "all you can eat steak and lobster dinner for your friends" event at the soup kitchen?  Well apparently if you aren't willing to do that, you are just a really mean person.