Monday, August 31, 2015

The Name Game

If you are coming here expecting me to rant and rave about President Obama changing the name of the tallest mountain in the United States today, you are in for some bitter disappointment.  As a lover of history, I fully embrace the decision to return Mount McKinley to its original name: Denali.

There seems to be a misconception that the mountain was named in honor of President William McKinley after his assassination in 1901--that perhaps in their shortsighted historical perspective, Americans of that time demanded that the tallest peak on the continent bear the name of this "great hero".  But the McKinley name was actually put on the mountain by a gold prospector after McKinley was just nominated for President by the Republican party in 1896 (a process by the way that didn't involve caucuses and primaries or any direct voting by the electorate--and instead was controlled by party bosses who were usually engaged in back-room dealings and power-brokering).  Renaming the mountain was actually a campaign publicity stunt.

It should also be pointed out that Alaskans themselves do not call the mountain "McKinley".  Most would be quick to correct you that the mountain's name is "Denali".  The state legislature (dominated by Republicans) voted to change the designation back in the 1970's.  And one of their Republican Senators introduced a similar measure in Washington several times--only to have it blocked by Senators from McKinley's home state of Ohio.  Last night, House Speaker John Boehner--of Ohio--tweeted his displeasure with President Obama's "unilateral decision" to remove their "hero" from the mountain.  Nevermind that 99.99999% of Ohioans have never--nor will they ever--actually see the mountain.  It's a lot like the liberals in California and New York being "offended" that a guy in Georgia has a Confederate flag flying in his yard.

Besides, the "original" name sounds a lot cooler.  "Denali" means the "Great One" or "High One" in the native Athabascan language.  That certainly captures the grandeur of the mountain and the surrounding national park (which has been Denali for decades as well) than "the 25th President of the United States."  You have to admit that European explorers and settlers chose really boring names for things as they expanded across the globe.  State names get more exotic as you head west--Colorado and California are much more original than New York and New Jersey.  And how enticing would it be to go to the "Sandwich Islands" for your anniversary--compared to Hawai'i?

If we are going to go back to "original" names, might I suggest that Lake Superior change to the Ojibwe title of "Gitchigami"--meaning "great sea" (not Gitche Gumee as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Gordon Lightfoot incorrectly called it).  Again, a much more exotic sounding name than "Superior"--which the French Voyageurs put on it because it was the "lake upstream from Huron". 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Tilting at Big Boxes

In another example of life imitating art, the city of Oshkosh is seeing a scene from the classic novel Don Quixote play out on its Common Council.  Where the title character of the novel sets his attack on windmills--believing them to be dragons, our own Mayor Steve Cummings is going on the warpath against big box retailers.  In Tuesday night's meeting, Mayor Quixote--I mean Cummings--went on a diatribe bashing the many stores along the Interstate 41 corridor for the size of their buildings, their "ugly" exteriors, their "acres of blacktop" and their desire to pay as little in taxes as possible.  Quixote--err Cummings--even kept up the "reptile enemy" theme by comparing the retailers to "boa constrictors"--squeezing the life out of Oshkosh.  He--and other members of the Council--then encouraged citizens to reject shopping at the big boxes and instead only support "local businesses".

But I have to ask Mayor Quixote--I mean Cummings--what his plan would be for replacing all of his hated big boxes?  How would he propose to feed our 60-thousand residents without WalMart, Festival or Pick n Save stores?  Your going to need a lot of farmers markets to meet that demand.  Or are we turning the properties along the frontage roads into "community gardens" where 21st century Americans are forced to partake in subsistence farming?  Where would Oshkosh residents get their clothing?  The second-hand shops?  Rummage sales?  The local "adult lingerie" shop?

And if the I41 corridor isn't going to be farm fields, what is the Mayor's vision for that area?  Weed infested fields interspersed with retention ponds?  That should get plenty of people excited about living or moving their business to Oshkosh. 

Mayor Quixote--oops, Cummings--also claims that the big boxes pay no taxes.  Yet they still generate plenty of tax revenue.  How would he replace the 5% sales tax that is collected on the billions of dollars spent in those stores every year?  How would he replace the payroll taxes and social security taxes and Medicaid taxes collected from the paychecks of those thousands of workers.  Maybe they don't pay enough in property taxes for his tastes--but those wages do pay a lot of property taxes on homes throughout the city.

The Mayor even had his own Sancho Panza riding shotgun with him Tuesday night, as fellow Councillor Caroline Panske proudly declared that she would never do business with Time Warner Cable (their property tax exemption is what prompted this whole "anti-big business" tirade).  She instead uses the internet and wi-fi at the public library and at city hall--at taxpayers' expense.  And nobody seemed to grasp the irony that they were attacking Time-Warner Cable's "greediness" on a public access TV channel provided at no cost (and equipped by) Time-Warner Cable.

What makes this entire attack disingenuous is that all of those Councillors who took turns bashing the big boxes could have prevented them from building in Oshkosh in the first place.  Where was Mayor Quixote--dang it, Cummings--"NO" vote on construction of Dick's Sporting Goods? Or Ross Dress For Less?  Where was Caroline Panske's emotional testimony before the city Plan Commission before it approved the WalMart Supercenter project a decade ago?  Where was Kyle Clark's one-man protest along Washburn Street with signs reading "Hell No, Lowe's Must Go!"?

All I can say is that when Mayor Steve Cummings runs for re-election, he had better not take any credit for the growth of businesses along the I-41 corridor.  In fact, he should run on an anti-big box platform.  "No Kohls yesterday, No Kohls today, No Kohls Ever!!"  Maybe Rob Kleman from the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce can take His Honor along with him to those site selector conferences so he can look those retailers in the eye and tell them "We have no interest in having you come to our city unless you are willing to pay the MAXIMUM AMOUNT OF TAXES we believe you should have to pay!"

In the meantime, the DOT might want to consider adding one more lane to I41 to accommodate the additional traffic of Oshkosh residents driving to Neenah, Appleton and Fond du Lac to do their shopping and to go to work.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Credit Where It Is Due

Happy days are here again in Oshkosh!  The city's largest employer--the Oshkosh Corporation--lands the largest military contract in its history--$6.7 billion dollars to build the replacement vehicle for the Humvee.  When you add in the service, parts and possible extensions, the deal could be worth $30 billion by 2040.  To fill that order, Oshkosh Defense will have to hire hundreds of new employees--along with those that will be added to the payrolls at the regional suppliers that contract with Oshkosh.  It's the kind of economic development that could lift the entire region for a generation.

A great deal of credit must go to the United Auto Workers members who a few years ago agreed to take concessions in their new contract with the company in order to make the Oshkosh Defense bid as competitive as possible.  Oshkosh was in fierce competition with AM General--which built the original Humvees that the new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle will replace--and Lockheed Martin--a manufacturer providing the Pentagon with a myriad of fighting machines that are used on both the ground and in the sky.

There were stories that the other bidders were questioning the ability of Oshkosh Defense to build the JLTV's at the prices the company was quoting.  But Oshkosh was able to show the Pentagon the union contracts already in place--guaranteeing the labor costs for the bid.  Ultimately, the Department of Defense decided that Oshkosh and its workers were going to provide the best vehicle that $250-thousand dollars a piece can buy.

It would have been very easy for the UAW members to reject the idea of pay freezes and higher health insurance premiums and deductibles requested by the company at the start of the bid process.  There were plenty of community leaders who claimed it was another case of an "evil corporation" taking advantage of a "concocted crisis" to "artificially depress wages".  Well, where would those workers be now if AM General had landed this $6.7 billion contract?  They would likely be heading to Indiana to work at that production plant--while the "community leaders" would be standing there with their blue fists in the air.  And those who remain would have to hope that broke European governments start minting more Euros so that they can order garbage trucks again.

Instead those employees who were willing to take a little less are guaranteed of jobs for as long as 25 years.  And all of the other businesses in town that will sell food, cars, houses, appliances and pet treats to those workers get to share in the wealth as well.  So I think the next time you see an Oshkosh Corporation production worker you should give them a hearty handshake and both congratulate them and thank them for the teamwork they exhibited to allow so many of us to win.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Krause's Adjunct to Godwin's Law

One of my favorite truisms is what's known as "Godwin's Law".  It holds that the longer an on-line discussion continues, the greater the probability of comparisons of the subject matter to Naziism or Hitler.  I've seen discussions on topics like gun control, mandatory health insurance and even zoning code enforcement all devolve into what participants believe were the policies of German National Socialists in the 1930's and '40's.

Today, I'd like to propose an amendment to Godwin's Law--call it "Krause's Adjunct"--which theorizes that the longer any discussion about racial issues goes, the greater the probability of comparisons to slavery and the Jim Crow South.

Our latest example of "Krause's Adjunct" comes from Wisconsin Congresswoman Gwen Moore--who on Monday during a conference call with reporters to bash Governor Scott Walker's presidential campaign swing through the South--said Walker's policies are "literally tightening the noose" around African-Americans.  It's always hard to tell exactly what Congresswoman Moore is talking about, but I believe this was said in the context of Walker's support of "3 strikes and you are out legislation" for multiple offense felons--which Moore blames (not the actual committing of the crimes) for the high rate of African-American incarceration in Wisconsin.

How exactly this equates to the lynching of blacks in the South during the era of Segregation I'm not sure.  Those who were lynched usually did not receive a trial or to have police and prosecutors present evidence against them that a defense attorney could challenge or refute.  And many of those killed by the "angry mob" weren't even first time offenders--much less those convicted of a third serious crime.  But to Congresswoman Gwen Moore, the process is the same.

And Moore didn't even give herself an out on her comments because she used (and stressed) the word "literally".  English majors would tell you that would mean Scott Walker was engaged in the physical act of placing a rope around the necks of African-Americans and strangling them.  While Walker's most hated opponents might wish there was video footage of that, I doubt anyone is ever going to witness it happening.

"Krause's Adjunct to Godwin's Law" doesn't even have to apply to conversations about the topic of race.  Given the recent actions of Black Lives Matter protesters, it could also include Bernie Sanders campaign rallies or local Police and Fire Commission meetings.

I saw on Twitter last night a great post from a political pundit: "Here is the list of things that it is okay to compare to slavery: 1--Slavery  That's it, that's the list"  Someone should literally send that to Congresswoman Gwen Moore. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Mascot Down

The sun came up again today--despite the worst fears of Packers fans--who are in mourning at the apparent loss of wide receiver Jordy Nelson to an ACL injury.  Not only does this injury leave the Packers without one of their deep threats in the receiving corps, but it also means fans have one less mascot to root for this season.

Packer backers hate when I refer to some of their favorites as "mascots"--but the team always seems to have a few guys whose popularity with fans and in the community exceeds their actual production on the field.  I'm not talking about Aaron Rodgers or Brett Favre--they have the numbers to back up superstar status--but guys more like Nelson or Clay Matthews or John Kuhn (who make up the three most popular jerseys sold behind A-Rodg).

Compare Jordy Nelson's numbers to those of some of his predecessors--Greg Jennings and Antonio Freeman.  Not really that much different are they?  And yet Jennings and Freeman never seemed to be as "beloved" by the fans as Farmer Jordy.  In fact, the fan base seems to have a bit of animosity against those former stars.  And imagine for a moment if the infamous on-sides kick had made it all the way to #87 and he had been the one to muff it.  Would there have been infinite calls to sports radio demanding he be cut?  And why is so little made of the numerous drops he had while running open in that same game?

Actually, the Packers have a proud history of mascots.  You had Bill Schroeder, Mark Tauscher, Don Beebe, Chuck Cecil and Brian Noble--just to name a few.  All of them seemed to have that "something" that appealed to Green Bay fans more than many other players.  And when mascots renegotiated big contracts, Packers fans celebrated saying "He really deserves it--he's a really great guy".  But when someone like the aforementioned Jennings asked for big bucks, those same fans couldn't understand why he wasn't willing to take less to "help the team stay under the salary cap".

With Nelson likely out of the rest of the year, the Packers may have to go out and find another "gritty" player with "deceptive" speed and "a high football IQ" to replace him.  It's what Packers fans love most about their team.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The World's Most Interesting Amendment

While the First, Second and Fourth Amendments to the US Constitution get all of the glory and attention, the 14th Amendment is making a run at becoming the most-interesting and controversial of them all.  For those who believe that it's not necessary to "memorize facts" about US History and how government works, the 14th Amendment addresses citizenship and equal protection under the law.  It was originally drafted to protect recently-freed slaves and to ensure that they received full rights of all citizens following the end of the Civil War.  Democrats in Southern states would eventually usurp those rights with the Jim Crow laws and segregation.

Since it's final approval in 1868, the 14th Amendment has been used to force the integration of public schools through the Brown vs Board of Education case, legalize abortion through the Roe v Wade decision, decide the 2000 election in Bush v Gore, and recently, legalize gay marriage in all states in Obergefell v Hodges.  That's a lot of historic ground breaking for just a little amendment.

Now the 14th Amendment is being challenged again by Presidential Candidate Donald Trump--who believes the birthright citizenship granted by the law "needs to go".  The Amendment simply states that anyone born on American soil--regardless of the citizenship of their parents--is an American citizens and is entitled to the rights and protections thereof.  The intent was make sure that Democrats in the former Confederate states didn't deny rights to freed slaves because their parents weren't considered "citizens of the US" thanks to the Dred Scott decision.

Trump claims that illegal immigrants of the late 20th and early 21st centuries are taking advantage of the birthright clause by sneaking into the US to give birth to "anchor babies"--which tie them permanently to a US citizen--who has every right to stay here, even if his or her parents have no rights to stay in the country.  Those who back Trump's position point to notes from the original debate on the bill that Congress did not mean for people illegally in the country to be able to give birth to US citizens.  But if that was to be the intent of the lawmakers at the time--and the state's that ratified the Amendment--then they should have put that in there.

But the simple fact of the matter--and the law of the land is--that anyone born here is a citizen.  And that is just another of the things that makes us rather unique in the world.  Few other countries have birthright citizenship.  And let's not forget that not all of the European immigrants of the 1800's and 1900's came here legally.  There were stowaways on ocean liners that snuck in.  There were tourists who never left.  Some just walked over from Canada.  There could literally be hundreds of thousands of us whose families were here for three or four generations that could be denied birthright citizenship because our great-great-great grandparents skipped the stop at Ellis Island on the way in.

Meanwhile, how about we take a moment to once again thank those who have helped to draft and amend our Constitution into a dynamic document that continues to shape who we are as a country even after 226-years--even during a time when politicians and candidates do all they can to ignore it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

And So I Face the Final Curtain..............

If he was still alive, Elvis Presley would be 80-years old.  I've often wondered what Elvis's career would have been like had he not died 38-years ago this month.  Would he still be able to sing?  Would he still be doing shows?  Or would he have had the good sense to retire and just soak up honors at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and music industry awards shows every few years?

I got to thinking about that again this week after the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel review of Kenny Rogers' closing night show at the Wisconsin State Fair on Sunday.  The headline read "Kenny Rogers Struggles at Wisconsin State Fair Show"--and further reading finds that "struggles" might be a generous description of the performance.  "The Gambler" couldn't remember the words to a number of songs in the set.  And the words he could remember, he couldn't hit the notes anymore with his 77-year old voice.  It was the kind of performance that leads you to wonder "What is that guy doing still up on stage?  Shouldn't he have enough money by now to be retired and putting out repackaged 'Greatest Hits' albums every year to rip people off?"

The answers to those questions are contained in the same article.  The people attending that Kenny Rogers show really didn't seem to care.  There was laughter and cheers when Rogers apologized for basically not being able to sing anymore.  For those that spent the money for tickets, this was probably more about nostalgia than it was about some kind of new experience.  In their heads, they could hear the songs the way they were meant to sound--and whatever warbling came from the singer's mouth wasn't that important.  It's how countless cover bands make a living--play the chords in the right order and just let the listeners minds and memories take over from there.

We often mock athletes that hang on too long and get embarrassed on the fields of play.  But there are coaches and general managers who can force those guys out by cutting them or not signing them.  Performers just go on finding smaller and smaller gigs to squeeze those last few dollars out of the shrinking pool of die-hard fans.  Maybe Elvis knew that his abilities were fading and that it was time to step away from the stage.  Like Kenny Rogers, the last few years of Elvis shows were a series of forgotten lyrics (listen to his flubs of "Are You Lonesome Tonight" on Youtube) and once allegedly taking a half-hour bathroom break in the middle of the show in Baltimore.

I will sometimes get asked if I wish The Beatles were still all alive and peforming together and I honestly say "no".  Based on Paul McCartney's performances that I've seen the past few years, he can't sing anymore--and I bet it would be the same for John and George as well.  Instead, I have the eight year's worth of recordings that contain them at the height of their musical powers--and there would be no "Eternal Farewell Tour" to tarnish that.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Improving Society One Vice at a Time

From a young age now, males are being taught that females are not to be treated as sex objects.  We are not to ogle low cut blouses or tight t-shirts.  We are not to check out short shorts or stare in amazement at skimpy swimsuits at the beach.  A woman's sexual history is not to be held against her and verbal consent must be asked for and received during every step of a sexual encounter--or the man has committed a rape.  The over-riding message is: Women are more than just their bodies and the pleasure they can provide to men.  That is unless you are willing to pay for that.

Amnesty International--a human rights group--is now pushing for global legalization of prostitution.  Their argument is that if the "world's oldest profession" was legal everywhere, it would undercut the human trafficking rings that operate around the world--holding women (along with men, girls and boys) as sexual slaves.  They also argue that if prostitution was a "legitimate" career, those involved would be more willing to seek regular medical care and cut down on the transmission of STD's and HIV.

That may all sound like positives, but it fails to take into consideration what effect having open prostitution has on a community and a society.  Do you think the brothels will open next to affluent parts of town like Trader Joe's or Costcos do?  Or will they take over the low-rent buildings on the poor side of town?  And will it be college-educated, career-minded people staffing those facilities because they see "the great money you can make for very little work?"

And if they think legalizing prostitution will suddenly end human trafficking, Amnesty folks might want to consider that making clothing is legal--yet factories around the world are filled with people who are paid pennies a day for their labor--if they get paid at all.  And working in the kitchen of a restaurant is legal as well--but as we have seen here in the Fox Valley--some of those people are not really doing so by choice.

This is actually Progressivism at its worst.  We have a major criminal problem?  Just make it legal and you have solved the crime problem!  Just like the push to decriminalize some drug possession and sales.  Yes, you have fewer people sitting in prison cells--but you also have more people pushing drugs on kids and those that can't afford to be blowing every penny they have to get high.  So really, what problem did you solve.

It will be interesting to see how American feminists deal with the Amnesty International decision.  Will they continue to talk about how the sexualization of women is demeaning, allows men to exert control over women and is an example of social injustice as they have been saying for the past 40-years or so?  Or will their tune suddenly change--with phrases like "empowerment" "control" and "personal choice" suddenly becoming their main arguments in favor of more women selling their bodies? 

Meanwhile, lonely men everywhere are adding a new line item to their personal budgets.......

Friday, August 14, 2015

Over-reactionary Consequences

It is a real shame that the Brown County Sheriff's Department had to lose one of its K9 units to a series of system failures at the PGA Championship.  The dog was being kept in a squad car--which was left running with the air conditioner on.  But then the AC unit stopped working properly--and a system designed for police K9 squads that is supposed to alert the officer and automatically lower the windows also failed--leaving Wix the dog to die from hyperthermia.

While the final incident report will blame the technology for the dog's death, this whole thing was also completely avoidable because the dog didn't need to be at the golf course anyway.  He was part of what I consider to be an over-the-top modern approach to security at special events.

From the federal to the local level, so much in resources, time, money and equipment are spent on making ourselves feel like we are safer.  Consider what my trips have been like to get to the PGA all this week.  To get to the Media parking lot, I have to take a country road out of Howards Grove to Whistling Straits.  At one intersection there are three or four State Patrol Troopers and their squad cars directing light traffic and making sure that I have the proper parking pass to be driving down that road.  About a mile after that, at another intersection are three or four more State Patrol Troopers and their squad cars directing light traffic and making sure that I have the correct parking pass to be driving on that road.  And then about a half mile from there--at the entrance to the Media lot--is another State Patrol Trooper with his squad car directing traffic in and out and making sure that I have the proper parking pass to go into that lot.  About 50-feet away from him are paid civilians making sure that I have the proper parking pass for that lot and directing me to a parking spot.

Once I'm in the lot, I go to the shuttle bus pickup spot--where a security person checks my credential to make sure I'm authorized to get on the bus.  After the ride, I get dropped off at a gate where security personnel scan the barcode on my credential to make sure I'm authorized to be on the grounds.  My bag gets checked--although no one actually examines any of the equipment inside to see if it is really is digital recorders and computers.  I also get wanded down--but I'm not required to empty my pockets--the security person just asks "What's in your pockets?" and I say "wallet and cellphone"--and they just wave my through.  And then about ten feet from the checkpoint is another security person to make sure that I have the correct credential to get into the Media Center--even though she just saw that credential get scanned.

Those in charge of security for this and similar events would tell you that all of these layers of  are necessary because if they weren't in place and there was an incident--the media would be crucifying everyone involved because parking passes weren't checked enough or credentials weren't repeatedly verified.  But if you have a color copier, you could make your own parking pass just like mine.  And if you were to plant an explosive device in a digital recorder or a notebook computer, the folks at the checkpoint would have no idea.

Just like the TSA at airports, we have developed a system of "security by show"--where it looks like we are going to catch any terrorist or crazed gunman at multiple points--but in reality, someone determined to do us harm still stands a very good chance of success.  And unfortunately, that "show" comes with a high price tag--both in terms of money and sometimes life itself.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Major Disappointment

The PGA Championship begins this morning at Whistling Straits golf course in Sheboygan County.  For many fans this will be their first opportunity to see professional golf in person--and many of them will likely be going home disappointed.  That is because golf is probably one of the most spectator-unfriendly sports there is.

First off, the size of the playing field is massive.  We are talking about acres of ground over which the game is played--and fans are limited to narrow strips of that property upon which to walk and follow the action.  Add to that, the fact that all of the players are playing on all parts of that property--and at any one time there can be 78-balls in play all at the same time.

I often hear people going to such tournaments saying "I'm going to follow Tiger around for his round"--to which I reply "Good luck with that".  My friends and I had the same plan the first time we went to the US Open at Olympia Fields outside of Chicago in 2001.  We were right along the rope at the first tee box.  Then we were behind a few people along the fairway.  And then we were about five people deep around the first green.  You couldn't get close to the second tee box or the second green.  And then he was able to walk directly through a crossover point while we were trapped by the mass of humanity trying to go different directions along a narrow path.  After that it was fleeting glances at Tiger as we jumped six or seven holes ahead of where he was in an effort to beat the crowd.

One option is to sit in any of the bleachers on the grounds--but then you are going to see just one hole--and your favorite players just that one time.  That's why the most popular bleacher sections on the course are the ones set up near jumbotrons showing action from everywhere else around the course.

One thing the PGA is doing better this year is that they have moved some of the "fan experience" elements closer to the course itself.  It's not a half mile trek to the merchandise tent for some keepsakes this year--and the shuttle buses don't drop you off in Sheboygan and expect you to walk the rest of the way to Haven.

So if you are heading out to Whistling Straits today or over the weekend, keep in mind that you are going to see a lot less golf than you think.  My suggestion would be to find a spot on top of one of the highest mounds and to just enjoy the beautiful views of Lake Michigan and the cooling breezes off of the water.  Just be sure to set your VCR to record the TV coverage so you can see everything you missed when you get home.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Hospital By Any Other Name....

Allow me to voice my displeasure with the administrators at ThedaCare who have decided to remove the name Theda Clark from the hospital in Neenah.  The facility shall henceforth be known as "ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah"--a name that just rolls off the tongue.  It's also a name that deprives Neenah of another part of its rich history.

Theda Clark Hospital is named for Theda Clark Peters--a community activist who died during childbirth in 1903.  Her father--Charles B. Clark of the Kimberly-Clark paper mills that made the Fox Cities what they are today--saw the need for a hospital in the community and donated $96,000 to build the facility in honor of his daughter (you can read into it whatever you want as tow why he chose to drop her married name).  That would be worth $2.5 million dollars today.  Clark also gave the hospital an additional $50,000 (worth $1.3 mill today) as an endowment to care for those who could not afford to pay.

From that family tragedy came a community asset--that has since grown to a regional asset--as Theda Clark has the area's only Level One Trauma center and is the destination for those most seriously injured in car and plane crashes or industrial accidents.  It has since expanded to include the area's only Children's Hospital for treatment of seriously ill and injured kids.  It's a gift that has continued to give and give and give--generation after generation.

But now our generation is done paying tribute to the family that bestowed upon the region this gift.  I'm sure some "Branding Expert" from New York or Dallas or San Francisco was brought in to look at the names of all the ThedaCare hospitals.  He or she likely put together a snazzy PowerPoint presentation using terms like "consistency of message" and "synergy across all platforms" and convinced the administrators that "Theda Clark" just "doesn't tell people who and where you are".

In their press release yesterday, those administrators said that using the title "ThedaCare" still "acknowledges their rich history".  Nice try, guys--but no it doesn't.  ThedaCare is a made up word (with a capital letter in the middle of it for crump's sake).  And just because "Theda" is in there doesn't make it an honor--just like "Integrys" doesn't conjure up "integrity" and "Insperity" doesn't "inspire us".  You may as well serve ThedaFood in the ThedaCafeteria with ThedaCoffee and ThedaCream.

Theda Clark is a name that acknowledges a rich history.  It was a real person with a real story.  And it is a real part of our history--a history we continue to lose in the name of "brand recognition".

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The People's Champion



I had a chance to witness, first-hand for the first time, a Phil Mickelson autograph session at Whistling Straits yesterday.  One of the greatest golfers of all time spent at least half an hour signing flags, hats, programs, tickets and golf balls for hundreds of fans that crowded along the barricades around the practice putting green. 

Phil had already put in a long day--two range sessions, some short game work, putting practice and nine holes on the Straits course (all interrupted by intermittent thundershowers-- and I noticed that he was in street shoes while signing for the fans, so he was likely on the way to his courtesy car and back to whatever house he is renting for the week.  Yet, Phil had plenty of time to give to his fans at the start of a long, pressure-packed week.

Some people believe that Phil Mickelson is a phony.  Nobody is that happy to hear compliments or well-wishes from fans.  Nobody "wants" to sign that many autographs.  Nobody gives serious thought to the repetitive questions from every member of the media every tournament.  But if Phil is a "phony"--he sure puts a lot of work into keeping up his persona.

After 20-years on Tour, Phil could easily do just 15-minutes of autographs after a round and still be way ahead of most other pros.  Or he could be a "I only sign on Mondays" type of guy.  But you can bet that Phil will be along the barricades after all of his practice and competitive rounds for as long as he can all week at the Straits.

And all of that effort has built up more goodwill from fans than Phil could ever possibly use.  To be honest, with his talent, Mickelson should have 8 or 9 or 10 major championships--instead of his current total of five--and at least a few years as the number one ranked player in the world (which he has never attained).  But when the conversation comes around to "overrated" players or "underachievers", Phil is hardly ever mentioned.  That's because the fans remember all of the good things that he has done--and tend to forget the gaffes, the blown chances and the missed short putts.

The good news is that Phil is teaching his fan-friendly ways to younger players on the Tour as well.  Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth sign a lot (not quite as much as Phil) and they aren't afraid to take selfies with fans as well.  And I can tell you that young ladies who may not be that "into golf" were going nuts for those two guys yesterday.  I'd like to hope that more "phony" golfers like Phil Mickelson will help keep the sport popular even after a certain 14-time major champion who acts like the spectators don't even exist (unless he needs them to move a big rock out from in front of his ball) leaves the game for good.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Socialist Lives Matter

I'm actually starting to feel sorry for Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.  His underdog campaign has been laid siege not by Tea Party activists opposed to his tax and spend economic beliefs--nor by Hillary Clinton supporters worried that he will be the one to ruin her coronation this time around--but rather by the very people he believes he will be helping the most.

For the second time since he started campaigning, Sanders had a public appearance taken over by members of the Black Lives Matter movement.  In Seattle on Sunday, Sanders was to speak to the crowd about income inequality and corporate influence on politics when his introduction was interrupted by two African-American women who literally commandeered the microphone and demanded four-and-a-half minutes of silence in honor of Michael Brown's shooting death in Ferguson a year ago.  When the two were booed by members of the crowd (after they did honor the request for silence), the women went on a tirade about how racist everybody in Seattle is.  Eventually, Sanders left the stage--without ever addressing his supporters.

This stunt was preceded by a Sanders appearance at a liberal conference called NetRoots last month where, again, Black Lives Matter folks interrupted his speech and he made the unforgiveable gaffe of saying that he believes "all lives matter".  Apparently, Sanders campaign consultants (if he can even afford to have such staffers) didn't brief him that the phrase "all lives matter" is racist and serves only to marginalize African-Americans by treating them the same as all other people.  Even liberal websites are joining in the attacks calling Sanders' belief that closing the income gap will improve the lives of minorities as "na├»ve".

You might wonder why the Black Lives Matter activists aren't crashing the Hillary Clinton campaign stops--since she is the "clear frontrunner" in the race.  But they likely can't afford the $10,000 minimum donation to attend all of her "private functions".  Bernie Sanders is making the mistake of actually campaigning in public--leaving him a much easier target for protest. 

I would like to think that the Black Lives Matter protesters that are trying ruin the Bernie Sanders campaign are patriots and believe in the American ideal of self-determination--so his Socialist agenda insults everything they stand for.  Or that perhaps those folks have grown tired of the idea that their lives will be so much better with more government handouts and the return of drug dealers to their neighborhoods because too many African-Americans are in prison.  But the reality is that they don't care what Bernie Sanders has to say--even if he truly believes that taking from the rich and giving to the poor will fix every problem that exists in this country.  And the fact that he has TV cameras following him around every day just makes him that much more inviting a target. 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Fixing ESPN

The early retirement my wife and I plan to take has been pushed back another couple of months, thanks to a bad week on Wall Street.  Driving the markets lower are poor performances in the broadcasting sector--led by Disney--which this week reported that ESPN is losing subscribers for the first time in its history.  The drop is blamed on so-called "cord-cutters"--people who are ditching cable subscriptions and getting their video services either through satellite or streaming platforms.  I'm not sure why anyone on Wall Street was surprised by this development because any serious sports fan would tell you that ESPN sucks.

It wasn't always this way.  For nearly two decades ESPN was must-watch television.  Big Monday college basketball tripleheaders, Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann hosting SportsCenter, NFL Primetime with all of Sunday's highlights (and Fantasy Football numbers) combined to give us all something to look forward to every night of the week.  I always take credit for the explosive growth of ESPN to the five channels it now offers because I was in a Nielsen Ratings family for about a year--and it made up about 90% of my TV viewing.

But now, ESPN executives have decided to focus more on the "Entertainment" part of their name--and less on the "Sports" part.  You are as likely to see an actor, hip hop artist or comedian on SportCenter talking about games as you are "Insiders".  And fast-paced highlight packages have been replaced by fancy 3-D computerized looks at the action "from all angles" like something out of Madden '15. 

There are ways to "save" ESPN from it's own self-destruction--and here are just a few ideas:

1--Dump the NFL-centric focus.  There is nothing like turning on SportsCenter in early March and seeing the "top story" is a change to Mel Kiper, Jr's draft board.  Followed by an update on Tim Tebow's interest in signing with the Eagles, Tom Brady's latest denials on Deflategate, the arrest of another NFL player, who isn't going to throw at the combine, criticism of Roger Goodell's punishment for other players and what free agents are thinking about signing with the Jets before getting to any of the 125 college basketball games played that night.  Focus on the stuff that's actually in-season and your might hold people's attention all year round.

2--Drop the idiots.  This is directed mainly at "First Take" co-hosts Screamin Steven A Smith and Skip Bayless--both of whom have been suspended for insensitive comments targeted at women and other minorities, downplaying the seriousness of domestic and sexual violence and insulting gays and Christians.  Chris Berman and Dick Vitale can be released from their duties as well--as 30+ years of the same schtick has worn thin.  You can also dump the 15-minute segments with the aforementioned celebrities--who only prove that they know nothing about sports.

3--Show baseball games featuring teams other than the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.  Every year in the playoffs there is a "surprise team" like the Kansas City Royals or the San Francisco Giants that catch everyone at ESPN off-guard--mainly because NONE of their games were shown on the network--while every Sawx-Yanks matchup is shown in primetime.

4--Stop pretending that leagues you do not have broadcast rights for don't exist.  The National Hockey League has become persona non grata at ESPN because NBC has the rights to their games.  That means NHL highlights get about four minutes in the eighth segment of SportsCenter every night--and there is no NHL Tonight show--like there is for every other league.

If the folks in Bristol, Connecticut can get to work on making these initial changes, I bet the "cord-cutters" come back.  And then we can get to work on expanding Pardon the Interruption to an hour every night.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Republican Presidential Campaign Family Night

I like to mock the Green Bay Packers Family Night.  It's fine that the team wants to hold a training camp practice inside Lambeau Field--but the way the fans and media treat it--like it's the most important event of the pre-season--is what is laughable.

Fans actually pay for the "honor" of attending the practice.  Talking heads spend the days leading up to it asking each other "What do you expect to see at Family Night?" and "Who really needs to have an impressive performance at Family Night?".  The fans will line up outside the parking lot more than three hours beforehand to tailgate--and then cheer loudly for every pass reception or touchdown during 7-on-7 drills (seemingly forgetting that it's the Packers defense that is giving up those big plays).  And let's not forget that many of the guys out there won't even be around when the action counts in a few weeks.

Then Family Night will be followed by a week's worth of "analysis"--with talking heads asking each other "Who really impressed you at Family Night?" and "What concerns do you have coming out of Family Night?"--all while "Gary from Ashwaubenon" "breaks down" the "issues I saw in the secondary on Family Night".

Well, the Republican Presidential Campaign version of Family Night will held in Cleveland, Ohio tonight--as the ten "frontrunners" (Mr Language Person would like to note there can only be ONE "frontrunner"--everyone else would be a "follower") take part in the first debate of the 2016 primary campaign.  Just like Packers fans, political junkies are treating this like it's an actual big deal.  We've had endless hours of analysis covering who would make the stage, to how the format would work with so many people to how each candidate should deal with all of the other candidates.  You can bet that all of the shows on this very radio station will spend the coming days and weeks "breaking down" the debate and deciding who "won" and who "lost".  Supporters of each person will cheer zingers directed at one of the others on stage--forgetting that the "zingee" could be the nominee that they will be supporting anyway further down the line.

And just like at Family Night, many of those who will be taking part this evening will be gone by the time the "real campaign" starts.  At least Packers Family Night comes just a week before the start of the exhibition season--and five weeks before the games actually count.  Tonight's debate is almost five months before people start standing in corners in middle school gyms in the Iowa caucuses.  And Ohio voters who will be the ones in the audience tonight have to wait until March 15th--another SEVEN MONTHS--before they can cast a vote for their nominee.

So don't expect me to be tuning in for tonight's "crucial early debate".  I'll start paying attention when the action actually starts counting for something.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Making Grandma Cry

In today's edition of the Poor Parenting Report we learn about a CNN reporter who does not require her daughter to hug her relatives if she doesn't want to do it.  Katia Hetter entitles her story "I Don't Own My Child's Body"  Hetter (and "experts") claim that by allowing her 7-year old to decide who she is going to hug and who she is going to withhold affection from will keep her safer from molestation.

Before we get into the whole "hugging Grandma against your will will lead to you being raped" argument--let's first consider the title of the story.  Parents do--in fact--own their children's bodies.  It is their responsibility to make sure that body doesn't run in the road, doesn't ingest poison, doesn't abuse animals, doesn't injure other children, doesn't try to jump out of a second story window, doesn't eat Cheetos and Capri Sun for every meal and doesn't relieve itself in the middle of the living room.  All of those activities that if given the choice, a child would likely choose to do.  And by preventing them from just doing only what they want to do, adults are performing the main function of the task known as "Parenting".

Now onto the hugging issue.  Hetter claims that children have an innate instinct to know when a person wants to do them harm--and that in fostering that instinct by allowing the refusal to hug a loved one it will protect them from those that want to molest them.  But she forgets that children also have an innate desire to push the boundaries placed upon them by adults and to gain a sense of control over the actions of those adults.  How can she know if her daughter doesn't want to hug Grandpa because it makes her feel creepy or just because it's a situation where she can say "NO!!" and Mom capitulates to her wishes?

You also run the risk of losing any semblance of authority when it comes to that child doing things later on that you know will be harmful to them.  When Hetter's daughter decides to become sexually active at 13 because it's 'what she wants to do with her body", how does the mother then justify her opposition to the idea?  Or can we expect a story from Hetter about how glad she is that her daughter can get birth control pills without her consent and the boy can get free condoms from the middle school nurse?

And shouldn't the child be given all the information on the ramifications of her "hug/no hug" decision?  Is Ms. Hetter explaining to her daughter that Grandma and Grandpa are getting up there in years and may die soon?  And will she share with her child all of her own regrets about the people in her life that have passed away without hearing "I love you" and getting a hug and a kiss one final time?  Who among us doesn't have at least one person they wish they could have done that with? 

Near the end of her story, Hetter tries to build up her "Mother of the Year" credentials by pointing out how much more work it is to not have her daughter hug loved ones.  She points out that there are "a lot of calls, Skype visits and presents" instead.  Ah yes, technology and objects--the modern replacement for actual human interaction.  Why not just have her send a text with a few emojis over to Grandma's cellphone before possibly seeing her for the last time?  Remember, it's the thought that counts.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Our Fat and Lazy Future

There is a video making the rounds on social media that I hope serves as a real eye-opener for parents.  It features three generations of families--grandparents, parents and children--with each member talking about what they did (or do) for fun as kids:



It turns out to a commercial for granola bars--but it certainly gets across the message that we are raising a lost generation of children that are so wrapped up in their technology that the "real world" doesn't even exist for them.

I drove past three Oshkosh parks yesterday--Westhaven Circle, Red Arrow and Abe Rochlin--and in not one of those parks did I see kids on the playground equipment, on the ball fields or even just running around.  (There were two boys using the skate park at Red Arrow and there were a handful of people at the Pollock Water Park.)  Living near Red Arrow, the only time I see kids there during the summer is when there are organized Little League games.

That's a far cry from my childhood.  We spent our entire summers outside--riding bikes, playing sports, making up games, fishing or looking for animals.  And we got to experience other things that today are cause for parental panic--like bruises, skinned knees, sunburns, fat lips and black eyes.  Those are normal injuries for kids that are super-active--and back then other adults assumed you fell off your bike or took a baseball to the noggin.  You see a kid today with a black eye or a fat lip or bruises and your first thought is to call the police or Child Protective Services because "they must be getting abused".

As one of the grandparents points out in the video, it's not that kids don't want to be outside experiencing nature and exercising and exploring their world.  It's more that today's parents use technology not just as a distraction but as a sort of protective bubble from possible injury, or disappointment, or defeat, or teasing, or bullying, or conflict, or danger--both real or perceived.  The new attitude is "As long as he or she is in their bedroom or in the living room--at least I know where he or she is." 

But as we continue to learn from the myriad of social programs that we Americans have adopted over the years, the more you try to protect people from the realities of life, the less freedom they really enjoy.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Forced to do Our Part

Today, President Obama will begin the full court press to sell his new plan to convert the American economy from one built upon affordable energy production to one that will be shackled by higher costs and the whims of Mother Nature.  Of course, he won't be promoting his new environmental restrictions like that.  Instead, it will be about "saving the planet from certain doom"--in a hope that fear will overcome logic in the debate over how we should heat our homes and power our factories.

In a nutshell, President Obama wants to move us away from the vast reserves of coal and natural gas that we enjoy here in the US to build an entirely new infrastructure based upon wind and solar energy.  He will do that by placing much tougher restrictions on each individual state as to how much carbon dioxide they can release into the atmosphere.  The hope is to make coal and natural gas-fired power plants artificially more expensive to operate than a wind farm or solar arrays.

The theoretical economists who advise President Obama believe that utilities forced to develop the more-expensive renewable forms of power will simply eat the losses when it comes to this process--and not pass the cost along to consumers.  In fact, they predict the average family will save $85 dollars on energy costs--despite all of the additional expenses!  Just like the Affordable Care Act saved Americans money on health care--which continues to increase at a rate higher than inflation.  It's amazing the White House isn't going to call today's announcement the Affordable Energy Act.

As a necessity, increased electricity and gas rates will hit the poor and those on fixed incomes the hardest.  A scenario that will actually play out across the planet as the Climate Change Alarmists seek to stifle economic and industrial development across the Third World (and the First World) as well.  Maybe the President also has plans for Federal energy subsidies to low income utility customers--funded by the rest of us.

Just in case the dozens of lawsuits that will be filed by individual states trying to block these new standards all fail, it might be time to begin practicing some lifestyle changes to prevent a sharp increase in your energy bills. 

First off, live like a farmer.  Go to bed when it is dark, get up when it is light.  It's amazing how much energy you can save by never turning on a light. 

Plug in your appliances only when you need them.  Do you really need your stove, microwave and coffee pot all to tell you what time it is all the time?  And during the winter, keep all of your refrigerated and frozen items in the garage.  Only run your refrigerator when it is hot.

Don't buy an electric car.  I would recommend this even if your energy bills weren't going up.

Plug in your electronic devices only when you need them.  Keep your cell phone battery in the red all the time.  Plug it in just when you need to make a call.  You've got voicemail and your texts will pop up when you power up again, so it's not like your going to miss anything important.  Move your favorite chair or the bed (or the toilet) as close to the outlet as you can so you can read your Kindle or your tablet while it is plugged in--using only the power you need for those few minutes of use.

Put on a sweater.  President Jimmy Carter suggested this back in the 70's and it will be true again in our future.  Hypothermia doesn't occur until your body temperature reaches 95-degrees--so you can afford to keep things chilly in the house.  Besides, how many people are already wearing shorts when we hit our first 50-degree day in the spring?  Obviously, that is a warm enough temperature for us.

Yes, all of these energy-saving tips are inconvenient and represent a step back in our evolution as a society.  But hey, we all have to do our part to "save the planet".