Friday, January 29, 2016

It's All In How You Take It

Earlier this week, talk show host Ellen DeGeneres spoke with the Tennessee couple that won a share of the record Powerball jackpot earlier this month.  They told her of the "tubs of mail" they now get on a daily basis from people asking them for money--to which Ellen responded:

"It's really a shame and I hope people stop doing that because it's really unfair--they played just like everybody else played"

That response would usually get a "thumbs up" from me--but I have to call out Mrs. DeGeneres because just a few weeks before this interview she had Senator Bernie Sanders on her show and he went on his usual diatribe about how the rich need to pay more taxes for the government to give to the poor, to which Ellen replied:

“I agree with you that it’s a crazy divide between the extreme wealth and the poverty, and the fact that there are children going to sleep at night without eating.”

So for Ellen DeGeneres and the other Hollywood types like her that are "Feeling the Bern"--having somebody who wants someone else's money directly ask for it is "shameful"--but for the Government to come in and just take the money from the same rich people to give to the same people "with problems that are no fault of their own" is "the right thing to do".

How is that any different?  And don't say the people sending tubs of mail to the Tennessee Powerball winners are hucksters and frauds--because those same folks are at every government assistance office telling a tale of woe and trying to get every penny they can from every entitlement program under the sun.  The only difference is the Powerball winners don't need the political support of the beggars to keep their jobs.

So why didn't Ellen tell the "1%-ers" right there on her stage and looking her in the face that they should be giving the vast majority of their wealth to everyone who asks for it, instead of playing the "passive-aggressive" game and letting Bernie Sanders yell at them through the TV screen?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

What Lies Inside

The greatest disservice that parents--and for that matter, all adults--do to kids today is to underestimate their abilities.  The belief is that if a child has to endure the slightest bit of teasing that they will be left emotionally scarred forever.  That if they aren't enrolled in some sort of educational program by the time they are three they will never learn.  That if they ever lose or suffer some sort of personal failure that it will cause irreparable harm to their self-esteem.  That they would never be able to memorize facts or figures.  Or that hearing any opinion or premise that goes against what they themselves believe will leave them mentally harmed.

And that is why we have anti-bullying campaigns that start in pre-kindergarten.  And it's why we have multiple levels of pre-school programs that take kids as young as 2 away from their parents for much of the day.  And it's why youth sports don't keep score and give trophies to everyone regardless of performance, effort or result.  And it's why kids have to figure out how to make tens when adding instead of actually just adding two numbers together.  And it's why universities and colleges have to create "safe zones" and post warnings on courses that might contain content counter to what their own personal beliefs are--if such speakers and content are even allowed at all.

Everything is done under the giant umbrella of "protecting our kids" from threats--some real but mostly perceived--that they would "never be able to handle".

And then comes 11-year old Natalie Martin to remind us what kids are capable of when not being "sheltered".  Natalie is the Sheboygan Falls girl who rescued her 9-year old sister from a house fire Tuesday night--and then ran back into the smoke-filled building to try and rescue her two younger brothers.  An 11-year old who probably heard her entire life "Don't do that, you'll get hurt!" or "You can't do that, you're too young!" goes back in because she knows that waiting until the Fire Department shows up will probably be too late.

There are a lot of adults who wouldn't do that.  But here is an 11-year old--someone that modern society sees as incapable of accepting an "F" on a report card or not being able to handle not getting a trophy at the end of soccer season--facing extreme danger and what had to be overwhelming fear to go back into that house because her brothers needed her help.

It makes you think what else our kids are capable of doing, if we actually let them face all that life will throw at them.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Playing To His Base

Just when you thought the circus that is the Republican Presidential campaign couldn't get any more outrageous, the Head Clown--Donald Trump--is taking it to a new level by threatening to boycott Thursday's debate hosted by Fox News Channel.  Trump is threatening to sit out because he thinks moderator Megyn Kelly was "mean to him" when he appeared on her show a couple of months ago.  And he came about this decision in a way that shows great leadership and forethought--he conducted a Twitter poll.

Given his TV experience, I'm surprised The Donald isn't hedging on his appearance.  "Will I show up? Won't I show up? I guess you'll just have to tune in to find out!"  That would likely guarantee a huge audience for at least the first 30-seconds of the debate--as America checks out whether or not Trump does show up to "face his adversary"--and immediately tunes out if he fails to show.

It would not surprise me if Trump agrees to do an in-studio sit down interview with CNN or MSNBC on Thursday night at the same time at the Fox News debate.  And if those ratings beat the viewership of the debate, it's just another feather in his cap as he continues to play the media like a finely-tuned violin.  "Who would want to watch those losers anyway?" Trump says while going another week in the campaign without having to run TV ads or conduct any robo-calls to prospective voters.

As I have mentioned before, the Trump candidacy is America's first political "reality show"--and like every other reality show, it needs to get more and more outrageous and outlandish to keep the viewers' attention.  Boycotting a nationally televised debate fits "the script" perfectly--just a few days before the Iowa caucuses.  If Trump's poll numbers slip in New Hampshire, he may threaten to show up for the next debate nude--or drink beer during the telecast--or come riding in on the back of a grizzly bear while wearing a burning stuntman suit.  Or he may make good on his boast that he could shoot someone and not lose a vote by gunning down Ted Cruz like he is Howard Beale in the movie Network--as America flips the channels to see what else is on.

Talk about life imitating art

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Jury of My Non-Peers

If I ever commit a murder or other heinous crime, I hope my jury is filled with the people who are demanding "justice" for Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey.  I want people who come to the courthouse with a pre-conceived notion that law enforcement and prosecutors are crooked and put huge amounts of time and effort into framing innocent people for the simple satisfaction of seeing those poor patsies sit in prison for the rest of their lives.

I want these self-made experts on evidence collection, on DNA testing, on ballistics, on cleaning up blood, on how bodies burn and on police interrogation tactics to be casting slanted eyes toward every piece of evidence the state might bring against me.  And I want them to take their hard beliefs into the deliberations so they can badger the other jurors into adopting their points of view.

Forget about having trial lawyers defend me against those charges.  Give me a couple of film school students working on their final project for graduation.  Let them edit out volumes of evidence and testimony.  Let them present opinions from people not even involved in the case and not sworn under oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth--at the risk of criminal perjury charges.  And let them promise members of the jury their 15-minutes of fame if they are willing to "tell them" that they never wanted to find me guilty--they just felt "forced to do it".

I'll also add to my defense a self-described "bored guy from Oregon" who will conduct his own "investigation" into a couple of other people that he thinks are the "real killers".  He can come to Wisconsin, try to check out the evidence files in my case and then start publishing a personal list of suspects on the internet--none of whom were anywhere near the scene of my crime.

And how do I plan to pay for all of this?  Through crowdsourcing of course.  There is an entire population of people who believe that everyone accused of a crime is innocent and are willing to donate something in the name of "justice".  And then there are the just plain idiots who would even give money to a woman who claims she spent every penny she had on lottery tickets because she was "sure" she was going to win the record Powerball jackpot.

And after I get away with my gruesome, demented crime, I'm going to thank those people by moving in right next door to them and making sure that I really "get to know" their daughters and wives--as a way of saying "thank you" for their misguided support.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Quid Pro Quo

In his stump speech, Senator Bernie Sanders compares his "free college for all" proposal to the GI Bill.  Sanders points out that the huge influx of college educated men and women in the late 1940's and early 1950's spurred the unprecedented economic growth of the country in the decades that followed.  And while he is correct in giving credit to the program, Bernie conveniently fails to point out that the former soldiers of that time had already paid a huge debt to the country before they got the free college--while he wants to give that same benefit to today's youth just for showing up.

Even the most-ardent anti-government spending Tea Partier would agree that the men who stormed the beaches at Normandy and Okinawa, who endured the brutal cold of the Ardennes and the sweltering heat of the Philippines, who parachuted into live fire or were shot down in their planes and managed to survive, or those that were attacked by the Kamikaze on their ships certainly deserved a free college education and health care for life.  The same goes for those who fought in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, the Middle East or who chose to spend years away from their homes and their families to serve their country at any time in the past 70-years.

And now here comes Senator Sanders with his pitch for free college and health care because having to work your way through school is "too much of a burden" on modern young adults.  Not being able to have pizza with your friends down at the Quad is certainly as traumatic as watching six of your buddies get gunned down by a machine gun.  Having to delay buying a house for a few years is just as big a sacrifice as not seeing your wife and kids for four years.  And developing Type 2 Diabetes from a life of lounging on the couch and drinking soda is equally devastating as losing part of a leg from stepping on a land mine.

You know, Bernie could also point out in his speech that the GI Bill is still around.  Give the rest of us two or three years service--and we will be more than happy to provide you with the same free college education that he is promising you for doing nothing.  The same goes for your health care--provided you want to put up with the embarrassingly poor service provided by the single-payer VA system that mirrors the "Medicare For All" program that Senator Sanders also wants to foist upon all of us.

Friday, January 22, 2016

It's All Going According To Plan

The latest sign that the Affordable Care Act "isn't working" came this week when UnitedHealth announced that it had lost $720-MILLION on plans sold in the Federal and state exchanges.  The numbers justified UnitedHealth's decision to scale back the plans it was offering in the exchanges for 2016--which drew considerable criticism late last year.  UnitedHealth may drop out of the exchanges altogether in 2017 if the financial trend continues.

Not surprisingly, UnitedHealth found that people would wait until they were sick and needed coverage before enrolling in a plan--and then after treatment was covered by the insurer, they would "forget" to continue the coverage by paying their premiums.  The inability to charge more for those with higher medical costs and the ban on denying coverage to those with expensive pre-existing conditions just exacerbates the situation.

Those opposed to the ACA were quick to point to UnitedHealth's losses as "proof" that the program is a failure that will bankrupt the health insurance industry--and that is why it must be "repealed and replaced".  But as I continue to say, the Affordable Care Act is actually working exactly as it was designed to--as a planned failure.

Knowing that the idea of "Medicare For All" would have no hope of passing in 2009--President Obama and majority Democrats in Congress (actually consultants, since nobody in Washington actually read the Affordable Care Act except then-Senator Russ Feingold) devised a plan that would appear to be addressing the increasing costs of medicine and health insurance.  But the ACA was actually a skillfully-designed piece of malware meant to destroy the health industry from the inside--until private insurers were left in ruins, costs continued to escalate, and the American people were left with no other option than to demand "Medicare for all"!

And right on cue, here comes the Pied Piper of Single-Payer health care--Bernie Sanders--to play upon the frustration and fear of the populace by pointing out the "failures" of the Affordable Care Act and the security that would come from an even-bigger Government program to "fix it". 

The only thing missing from this scene is Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars and his creepy voice "It is all as I have foreseen".

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Hollywood's Most "Progressive" Filmmaker

Hollywood is up in arms this month after all of the major acting nominee for this year's Oscars are all white.  It's actually the second year in a row that no minorities were nominated--leading to the Twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite trending for much of the week.  It has also led to a boycott of the Oscars ceremony by stars of color and some other leading liberals like "documentary" maker Michael Moore--who are demanding more diversity in front of--and behind the camera.

However, there is one mogul in Hollywood that is leading the way when it comes to diversity in his films.  He directed a cinematic classic Western that was hailed for its respectful treatment of Indians--who were played by actual Native Americans.  He has produced films about a relatively-unknown African-American jazz musician and about South African President Nelson Mandela.  He directed an African-American who won Best Supporting Actor in a movie about a female boxer.  And he made a film that humanized the Japanese soldiers of World War II--starring all Japanese actors speaking their native language.

That Hollywood power player is Clint Eastwood.  The same Clint Eastwood who is mocked by Hollywood Liberals for his Conservative political stances and his infamous "empty chair interview with President Obama" at the 2012 Republican National Convention.

But I want you to watch the films that I alluded to before: The Outlaw Josey Wales, Bird, Invictus, Million Dollar Baby and Letters From Iwo Jima and then ask yourself why the people who pour millions into Hillary Clinton's campaign fund or who take to social media to back Bernie Sanders' plan to tax them into the middle class aren't doing the same thing as Eastwood.  You will likely come to the conclusion that it's always easier to stand in front of a microphone and say someone should do something about "injustice" than it is to actually go out and do something about "injustice".

And don't expect any accolades for Mr Eastwood from his peers on the left in Hollywood.  We wouldn't want to ruin the narrative of how Conservatives are all racist and want to keep minorities and women "in their place".

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Is That Doe In Heat or Desperation?

I always like to chide Liberals for their efforts to preserve archaic public entities like streetcars and the Postal Service--but Conservatives here in Wisconsin are guilty of that as well.  Consider the ever-increasing desperation they are acting with in trying to save hunting from becoming a niche activity.

It is no secret that fewer Wisconsinites are picking up guns and heading into the fields and forests.  And while most non-hunters would say that is due to societal changes toward the use of free time, Republicans in Madison think it's something they can change through legislation.

This started with the so-called "Right to Hunt" amendment to the State Constitution in 2003.  That was approved by voters who had been told that "hunting rights were under attack" and that it threatened the future of the sport in the state.  In reality, it's nothing more than a back-door safeguard against future gun control legislation.

When the Constitution didn't stem the tide of declining hunting interest, the DNR came up with a multitude of special gun deer seasons and bonus permits--which allowed nearly every hunter to bag as many as three whitetails a year--and to spend almost a month in the woods (if their wives allowed it).  But all that did was create confusion as to when and where you could hunt--and the overharvesting of deer in the northern half of the state (which was later compounded by a couple of brutal winters that further decimated the herd--and turned the prime hunting land in Wisconsin into a land of "tag soup").

So then the State decided to all but give away hunting licenses.  First time hunters could pay as little as $5 to get a tag--as if the regular $24 was just "too high" for most people.  There was much rejoicing when gun-deer license sales increased by about one-percent after that.

And then, some state lawmaker got the enlightened idea that the only reason more women don't hunt is because they can't wear their favorite color in the woods--blaze pink.  So much ado was made about that--as we in the media scoured shopping centers trying to find one female who would say that they were excited to hunt for the first time because they wouldn't have to wear orange.

Which leads us to our latest--and perhaps most-desperate--proposal: doing away with the minimum age for hunting.  Current law requires a child to be at least ten--and still have an adult within arms reach--and there can only be one weapon between the two of them.  A new bill in the Legislature would allow kids of any age--with an adult nearby--to not only shoot a gun, but to carry their own weapon as well.  I know where this idea came from.  Studies show that by the age of ten, most kids are hooked on video games, the internet or are heavily involved in youth sports.  And that makes it increasingly difficult to get them interested in trudging around in the cold for an entire week with Dad in search of deer.  Instead of having a game controller in your six-year old's hands--which he can use to play first person shooter games--why not give them a real shotgun?

If people don't want to hunt, no law, price break or allowed color of clothing is going to get them to do it.  Just let the sport slowly fade away like high school boxing--and let nature itself "control the deer population" through disease, severe winters and natural predation.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Down the Seven Bridges Road

Of all the forms of art, isn't music the one where you develop the closest bond with the artist themselves?  It's been a rough couple of weeks for fans of Classic Rock--with the deaths of Lemmy KIllmister of  Motorhead, David Bowie and then yesterday Glenn Frey of the Eagles.  Our "Greatest Hits" station down the hall can barely keep up with the dedications and musical retrospectives.

Following each of those deaths, songs from those artists shot up the rankings of most popular downloads and plays on services like iTunes and Spotify.  Songs you haven't heard in years suddenly take on renewed meaning and you find yourself saying things like "Man, I forgot how good these guys were" and "I really need to listen to this stuff more often".

When the #RIPGlennFrey started showing up on my Twitter feed yesterday (and it was confirmed by more reputable media outlets than @boogereater69) my first thought was about a moment in college involving an Eagles song.

We were walking across campus in a group one night and one of the girls said "There are a lot of stars in the sky tonight".  My friend Adam and I both had the (some would say annoying) ability to hear a phrase and come up with a song lyric to match it--and then of course, sing it for everyone's "entertainment".  Almost instantly we both started singing the a cappella first line from the Eagles live cover of "Seven Bridges Road"--"There are stars in the southern sky....."  As we started singing the next line--instead of telling us to please shut up--a couple of other guys in the group joined in with more of the vocal parts and pretty soon, we had an Eagles cover band walking across the Library Mall singing in five-part harmony. 

And when we were done, we actually got compliments from people we didn't even know saying it sounded really cool.  That is when we started talking about forming a band--until we realized that only two of us could actually play an instrument--and there wasn't a lot of guitar/trombone bands making it big at that time.

But the fact that the death of Glenn Frey brings back that memory shows how special music is--and the power that those that make that music have in our lives.

Monday, January 18, 2016

How To Ruin Something That Could Have Been Great

I feel bad about hyping the NFL Network's broadcast of Super Bowl I on Friday night.  It really sounded like it was going to be something great--a replay of the "lost broadcast" of the first AFL-NFL Championship game--which had "never been seen since the day of the game" was finally going to be presented in all its classic glory.  And then when you tuned in for the 3-hour broadcast--it was a total disaster.

First off, we thought this was going to be the actual game broadcast--like people in 1967 saw on their TV's.  I know much has been made about how CBS and NBC wiped the original videotapes--but there is a copy of the broadcast that was discovered in a guy's attic a few years back.  There had been a legal battle between the family that owned the tape and the NFL over copyright and broadcast issues--but I thought that maybe that had been worked out and we were going to see that video.  Instead, it was actually NFL Films footage of the contest--much of which we have seen already.

And then, we were all led to believe that the game would be shown like an original broadcast--with play-by-play from one of the networks.  And while there was what sounded like one of the radio calls--NFL Network decided that it was going to have a team of "analysts" TALK OVER THE TOP OF PRETTY MUCH THE ENTIRE THING!!!  On Twitter, some were calling it the "worst episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 ever".  The only time anybody shut up was when there was a scoring play or a turnover.  And since none of the "analysts" (except for Steve Mariuci) were alive at the time of the game, they offered absolutely no insight into what we were trying to watch.

For the first ten minutes or so I thought "Maybe this is some 'pre-game' thing and they are going to start again with just the original play-by-play".  But no, the inane commentary continued.  And then I thought, "they said the footage only took 52-minutes--so maybe they are going to replay this in the third hour without all of the blather.  But the final hour was nothing more than re-hashing what we just saw with show and tell from Mooch about having his picture taken with Packers players at training camp during the '60's.

And by the way, Fred "The Hammer" Williamson can take his "we didn't think they were that great" attitude and shove it.  If you didn't know the outcome of the game already, you would have been wondering why he wasn't wearing his Super Bowl I Champions ring on the set.  "The Hammer" probably demanded that he not be on set for the play where he got knocked out and had to be carried off on a stretcher.  Fortunately, Mike Garrett was far more gracious and respectful. 

Again, I apologize for getting anyone excited to watch the "Lost Game"--since it didn't turn out to be anything special.  This now replaces the Star Wars prequel trilogy for "Most Disappointing Entertainment Experience Ever".

Friday, January 15, 2016

Dinosaurs That Can Actually Read, Write and Add

If you are over the age of 35, your educational experiences were probably the same as mine: days spent on rows of uncomfortable wooden or plastic chairs behind fake wood-topped desks, endless recitation and memorization of facts and figures, lugging around hard-covered textbooks with page after page of black print and few if any pictures along with softcover workbooks filled with problems that were all to be solved longhand, while teachers stood at the front of the classroom and wrote everything out with white chalk on a black chalkboard, while calling on random students to prove they were learning the material in front of everyone else.  It was boring, somewhat intimidating and certainly effective.  You have become a productive member of society that can write, read and do math in your heads.

In the 18-years that I have now been covering public education and school boards, I've been told repeatedly that the way we learned back then was terribly ineffective.  Gone are the classrooms with 25 or 30 kids in them--replaced by SAGE class limits of fewer than 20.  Gone are the desks and chairs--replaced by balance balls to help kids "build their core strength" set out in a circle so that students can "work collaboratively" to solve problems.  Gone is the memorization of facts--replaced by concepts that help kids "learn how to learn".  Gone are the big, heavy textbooks, the chalkboards and the lectures--replaced by multi-media presentations sent right to every student's personal, school-supplied notebook computer.  And forget about waiting until you are six-years old to start going to "school"--that now begins at 3 or 4.

A review of recent "education" stories we've had here at the Radio Ranch finds elementary school students who designed their own smartphone app, high schoolers that took part in a rally to end human trafficking, kids helping senior citizens to use computers and smartphones and middle schoolers harvesting the fruits and vegetables they grew in gardens located on their own campuses.  The Superintendent's Report at every School Board meeting is filled with more examples of kids learning about renewable energy, preparing food pantry bags and helping to pick up trash in a park.  All of which may lead you to say "Wow, we never did stuff like that when I was in school."

And then comes the reports this week that make you realize why we never did stuff like that when we were in school.  I'm talking about the reports that show just 51-percent of elementary school kids are rated as "proficient" or "advanced" in reading--and less than half meet the same standards in math.  Fewer than half of our high school kids are "proficient" or "advanced" in reading and less than 40% reach the same levels in math. 

I want you to think back to your days in the classroom again.  Were half the kids in your school unable to comprehend what they read in their textbooks?  Were almost 2/3rds of them unable to do math?  When you headed off to college, did you have to enter a specialized Freshman curriculum that was basically remedial math and language skills because your primary education had you totally unprepared for higher learning?  And now that you are the bosses or business owners, are those the kind of graduates that you want to employ?

I can guarantee that we are going to get the same excuses we do every year for these results: "you can't really measure what a child knows through standardized testing", the standards were raised after curriculum was adopted and we are still adjusting", and my favorite "kids face far more challenges in their lives today than they did just a few years ago".  Perhaps us older folks should stop telling the younger generations how "special" they are--and start bragging up ourselves for being more successful despite being burdened by "outdated educations".

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Never Get Too Attached

As much as I enjoy needling Packers fans for their blind and usually over-the-top devotion to the franchise, I appreciate the fact that they will never have to worry about their team packing up and leaving town.  Those closets full of Packers t-shirts, Packers sweatshirts, Packers jackets, Packers hats, Packers stocking caps, Packers Zubaz pants, Packers mitten, Packers earrings and Packers scarves will never have to be tossed in the Green and Gold trash cans because they are now the Los Angeles Packers.

Fans in St Louis, San Diego and Oakland are not so lucky.  We know for sure that the Rams are moving to LA and in a bizarre arrangement, the Chargers get first dibs on joining them--followed by the Raiders.  How would you like to be in San Diego or Oakland right now, knowing that your favorite team is more than ready to drop you like a bad habit for the "new revenue streams" of another city?  That really gets you excited for the NFL doesn't it?  (Of course, since the NFL exists only to feed America's fantasy football addiction, "my team" is really nothing but the guys you have active for that week--and it really doesn't matter where they play.)

Green Bay's community-owned status doesn't make it immune to the same sorts of power plays that teams with actual owners have used.  The Pack went to the taxpayers to fund the renovations and expansions of Lambeau Field just like all of the "greedy owners" have done in so many other cities.  They just didn't have the "I get a new stadium and I get to keep all of the revenue or I'm moving the team" threat to use on the voters.  Instead, they took advantage of the aforementioned blind loyalty and told Brown County residents "give us more money or we are going to suck forever--despite billions in revenue sharing from the league and a salary cap".

Since then, the Packers have parlayed that infusion of tax revenue into success not only on the field but off as well.  The team is becoming one of the largest landowners in Green Bay--having purchased private property extending from Lambeau Field west all the way to Interstate 41--with plans to develop an "entertainment and shopping complex" that would be fairly unique in the league.  It will be interesting to see if the team comes back to the taxpayers again in the future--when further amenities or seating needs to be added to Lambeau to "enhance revenue streams"--and to make sure the "team can remain competitive" for another couple of decades.

Meanwhile, St Louis residents will have more time now in the fall to pat themselves on the back for being the self-anointed "Best Baseball Fans in the Country".

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Kids are Alright

Maybe today's kids aren't as hopeless as we adults think.  The response to the WIAA's demand that schools crackdown on such offensive chants as "air ball" and "start the bus" have drawn immediate--and creative--backlash from those for whom the games are actually played.

A scan of social media shows Tuesday night games across the state featured students holding signs that read "censored", kids with duct tape over their mouths, empty student sections and one game where no one cheered at all for the first seven minutes of the game in a silent protest.  Apparently, these millenials don't believe that gymnasiums and sports fields are "safe spaces" where everyone is to be "protected" from comments that might hurt their feelings.

And there has been plenty of responses like mine on Monday from the adults as well.  None other than ESPN College Basketball analyst--and very liberal attorney--Jay Bilas who put on a world class display of trolling on the WIAA yesterday.

State lawmakers are also joining the fray, with former college basketball player and current State Representative Dale Kooyenga sending a formal letter to the WIAA telling them to get a clue:

I couldn't say it any better.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


I'm assuming that no supporters of Bernie Sanders are playing the PowerBall Lottery this month.  Winning $1.4-BILLION won't just make you a member of the hated 1%, it will put you into the category of the especially-vile .1%.  I am also yet to see anyone on social media post that they hope they win PowerBall so they can give 95% of that money to the Federal Government "because they would do a better job of spending it than I would. #feeltheBern".

Sanders supporters should actually be out protesting at lottery outlets across the country, as the way the game works is an exact replica of the economic model they claim to despise and want to replace with collectivism.  Millions of people fork over their money and one or two people end up with all of the cash in the end.  It's the epitome of "distribution inequality"  Except, in the case of the lottery, people don't come home with cheaper groceries and clothing, new cars, the latest technical gadget or the ability to put off paying for those items month after month for what they pay to the "evil corporations".  Instead, you buy a PowerBall ticket and all you get is colorful piece of worthless paper.

Of course, the lottery is not all bad for supporters of bigger government and soaking the rich.  Not every dollar goes to the jackpot.  A large percentage of revenues goes to fund the government bureaucracy that operates the lottery.  Most states also keep some of the proceeds to fund public education, conservation or property tax relief. 

And just like most government programs, the lottery doesn't actually deliver what it promises.  While the jackpot promises to be $1.4-BILLION, if you want all of that cash right away--instead of in thirty annual installments--you will only get $868-MILLION--meaning the Government nets 38% of the promised prize for your impatience.  And as soon as you pose for the pictures with the giant check, Uncle Sam swoops in and immediately withholds 25%--or in this case, $217-million--as a down payment on this year's taxes.  If you live in a state with personal income tax, they will also collect their 4-9% immediately--lest you move to a state with no income tax immediately after cashing the big prize.

And when April 15th rolls around, the IRS is back for its remaining 14.5%--since you are now in the highest tax bracket.  Of course, that could become an additional 70% if Senator Sanders were to actually get his propsed tax brackets actually approved by Congress--or another 4% under the plan announced by Hillary Clinton just yesterday.  Putting all of that cash into investments and living off the returns for the rest of your life will cost you an additional 18% (the current capital gains tax rate--which would also skyrocket under Senator Sanders' economic plan).

So even though Uncle Sam isn't buying a single ticket for Wednesday's drawing--he is going to be, far and away, the biggest winner on the night.  And you wonder why financial experts call the lottery a "tax on the stupid".

Monday, January 11, 2016

This is Our Game!!

A star basketball player from Hilbert is finding out the hard way that you don't challenge adults' ways of thinking.  April Gehl is suspended for the Wolves next five basketball game for taking the WIAA to task for their concerns about "sportsmanship" through Twitter.  During the holidays, the WIAA sent out emails to all athletic directors expressing concerns about fans at games chanting things like "scoreboard" or "sieve" when a goalie gives up a goal, or "air ball" when a shot fails to hit the rim.  The AD's are directed to put an end to such "examples of unsporting behavior".  Miss Gehl chose to take to social media to express what most of us actually involved in the games think: Give me a break.

Let me take you inside what the WIAA and the other sports associations consider to be priorities.  On this year's basketball officials test, there were more questions pertaining to what color headbands and undergarments can be worn by players than there were what constitutes actual fouls on the court.  We are also quizzed on how many logos can appear on a uniform, where said logos can be placed on the tank top and the legal width of side panel stripes on a uniform.  Yet there is no testing for determination of a block or a charge on a drive down the lane late in a game--you know, stuff that actually affects the play on the court.

In softball we are expected to enforce the legal coloring of piping on a glove, whether the knob on the bat is too loose and if a sleeve under a pitchers uniform is distracting to a hitter.  Yet there is no testing of what is a ball--and what is a strike.

I know where this "concern" for student section cheering came from.  Somewhere this season, a mother's son or daughter jacked up a shot that was obviously out of his or her range--failed to draw iron--and was ribbed by the opposing fans.  "I felt offended for my child having to hear such vicious taunting from the other kids in the gym--and the other school's officials did nothing to stop it" is what was likely in the email sent to Stevens Point and the WIAA office.  Of course, if you asked the player involved, he or she would likely tell you they forgot about the chant seconds after it was over.  That's what successful athletes do--forget about their failures and focus on succeeding the next time--but today's helicopter, my child is a fragile being and needs to be protected from everything parents don't understand that.  And neither do the "protectors of the game" who cater to those parents--and who think they are above criticism--especially from those for whom they are actually supposed to be working.

Friday, January 8, 2016

A Point of Concern

I'm a bit concerned about our new Police Chief, Dean Smith.  A pattern of ducking the media is already developing--and he's officially been the chief for less than a week.

You may recall that when the City had narrowed the field of finalists for Chief to four, they were brought back to Oshkosh for a "meet and greet" with the public at the Convention Center.  Our reporter, Todd Armer, went down to the event to talk to all of the finalists (because let's be honest, the vast majority of you weren't going to spend an hour of your busy time to try and talk to those guys when we can do it for you and give you their responses the next morning).  The only one of the candidates who refused to talk with Todd was Dean Smith.  He told Todd that he would be "happy to talk to us if he got the job."

A few weeks later, Smith's hiring was announced late on a Friday afternoon--a maneuver we in the media like to call a "News Dump"--as newsrooms are usually less-staffed at that time, and it's far more difficult to get ahold of an official for comment--as they've cleared out of their offices too.  And that was the case here, as a call to Smith's Suffolk, Virginia Police Department office was never returned.

Then imagine my surprise on Tuesday when I'm reading through the daily report from Oshkosh Police--which is usually a litany of domestic disturbances, drunk driving stops and drug arrests--and there is a two-line mention that Chief Dean Smith was sworn into office on Monday.  I immediately went through my emails and deleted messages to see if I had missed a notice from the City or from OPD about that ceremony (likely sent late on a Friday afternoon).  When Scott Greuel took over as chief there was such ceremony.  The same for when Kevin Wilkinson took over in Neenah and even when James Lewis took over as interim Police Chief in Appleton.  It's nothing fancy.  The Chief takes an oath, says a few words about what he hopes to accomplish and then asnwers questions from the media. 

But, I never did find notice of such a ceremony for Chief Smith.  I was eventually directed to the agenda for the Oshkosh Police and Fire Commission meeting on Monday--which did feature the swearing in.  I'll grant you, this is "public notice"--you just need to click through four links on the City website to find it.

What is concerning to me (and hopefully to you) is that in an age of increasing public scrutiny of police actions--due in large part to the protests stemming from police-involved shootings--those who lead our public safety departments need to be out front and available to those they serve and protect.  And so far, Chief Smith is doing a fine job of staying out of the public spotlight.  An invitation to join us on WOSH before his first "official" day on the job on Monday will be extended to Chief Smith--hopefully he doesn't give us (and you) the stiff-arm again.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Real Jackpot

As you can imagine, much of the talk around the Radio Ranch this week has been about "what would you do if you won the Powerball?"  My stock answer for years now has been to purchase a first class ticket on the next flight to Maui, immediately buy a house in the secure section of Kapalua golf resort, and disconnect from the world.  But the more I think about it, I may have to change my answer.

While we focus exclusively on the big number in the jackpot, what you actually win in the lottery is the prize of time.  The old business adage is "time is money"--but that goes in the other direction as well--"money is time".  I work an average of 60-hours a week and take off (meaning not coming to the office or working at home at all) about two weeks a year.  Take that away and suddenly I have 3000 hours to do something other than worry about what is going on in the Fox Valley and with our cantankerous computer systems.

I'm a big believer that experiences are more valuable that items when it comes to spending discretionary income.  Seeing the sunrise on Haleakala on Maui or being on the Maid of the Mist below Niagara Falls and recalling those memories are better than having a TV that is 12-inches wider than the one I already have.  I probably wouldn't be one of those people you see on "The Lottery Changed My Life" on TLC who bought 20 cars, a house with two pools, enough gold jewelry to embarrass Mr T and a collection of suits of armor and swords.  I'd be the person who spends the first two years after winning the jackpot touring the world--and blogging about what its like to stand before the Taj Mahal, to snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef, to walk on Antarctica and to watch herds of wild animals cross the Serengeti.

$675-million dollars would mean extended time with far-flung family and friends, time to volunteer for non-profit agencies and taking the "long way" to our next destination--instead of driving as fast as possible on the boring interstate.  So as you stand in line this week to buy your next set of tickets (spending only what you can afford to lose) don't think about what you can buy with the jackpot--think about what you can do with the time you will actually be winning.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

An Idea Worth Re-visiting

Remember a few years back when there was an effort to reduce the size of the Winnebago County Board?  A resident group started circulating petitions to cut the board in half--saying it would make the Board more responsive to the voters and more efficient in doing its work.  You may recall that the Board responded by passing its own resolution to eliminate just one seat--thereby heading off the reduction effort--because a change in the number of seats can be done only once in a census cycle.  That vote was nothing but a finger in the eye of what we hear all the time should be "grassroots politics"--with sitting members of a government telling those they represent that "they know better".  Well, it might be time to consider such an effort again.

Now that the filing deadline for candidates has passed, we find out that there will be just four contested races for Winnebago County Board again this spring.  That is right around average for the 15-years that I have been covering the Board.  What is growing, however, is the number of seats on the Board where there are no candidates for office.  This spring, there will be four districts without a single name on the ballot.  Barring write-in candidacies, that means 11% of Winnebago County residents will have no representation on their Board after April. 

This is actually a chronic problem for the Board, as districts covering most of the UW Oshkosh campus and the parts of Appleton that lie in Winnebago County are vacant more often than they are filled--as no one even applies for appointment to those seats.  And in the rare occasions when appointees are made, they never seem to seek re-election.

When the Winnebago County Board pulled its one-seat reduction move, supporters said that having 36-districts allows for "better representation" of the people.  They claimed that more, smaller districts allow all of the towns to have a "bigger voice".  But when you look at turnover on the Board--and the lack of interest in creating turnover--it appears that the vast majority of Winnebago County residents are hearing just one voice speaking on behalf of them year after year after year.  Well, at least in the districts where someone is interested in serving at all.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The 0.8% Solution

President Obama is "doing something" today to make "America safer from gun violence".  The President is using executive action in "closing the gun show loophole" by expanding the number of vendors who would have to conduct background checks on buyers.  It's meant to better define who is a gun "collector" who might sell off a few pieces every year--and someone who buys guns just for the purpose of reselling them at a profit.

While the President may think they he is "doing something" about gun crime, the numbers themselves show that he is doing next to nothing.  A study by the President's own Department of Justice in 2013 found that gun show purchases accounted for 0.8% of all weapons used in the commission of crimes.  That study found that 40% of criminals purchased their guns off the streets (25% percent from drug dealers).  Another 37% got or stole their guns from friends or family members who legally purchased them.  Seven percent of criminals that used guns purchased them legally at retail outlets--meaning they passed required background checks to buy the firearm--or they had someone who could pass a background check do a "straw buy" for them.  Three percent purchased their guns from pawn shops--and the less than one-percent of criminals got their guns from gun shows.

While President Obama may say that "doing something" about the gun show loophole is the only course of action he can take through executive action--he certainly had other avenues to combat gun violence.  I was hoping that his meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch yesterday would result in an executive order to have the DOJ actually crackdown on illegal gun ownership--including weapons sweeps targeting felons (who are not allowed to possess firearms) and the encouragement of prosecutors to file illegal weapons charges in all cases where felons are using illegal guns--followed by judges treating weapons violations more seriously in sentencing.  But alas, that was not at all a priority of the President or the AG.

Part of that is likely due to the fact that "doing something" like a "gun sweep" would not target the "right kind of people".  Knowing what we know about gun crimes and violence, a crackdown on illegal weapons possession and use would put more young African-American males behind bars for a longer time.  And for a President and a political party espousing a platform of opposing "mass incarceration" of those who actually break the law--actually getting guns out of the hands of criminals doesn't play well with the base.

But "doing something" about buying a gun at a gun show inconveniences the "right kind of people".  The people who tend to be conservative and vote Republican because of a strong belief in Second Amendment rights.  It also sends a message to the National Rifle Association who is the "boss".

I know we will all rest a little bit easier tonight knowing that President Obama has made us 0.8% safer.

Monday, January 4, 2016

You Can Come Down Off the Ledge

The general consensus among Packers fans and the talking heads that cover them is that next week will be the final game of the year for the Green and Gold.  Offensive woes have even the most die-hard Packer Backer out on the ledge this morning anticipating the worst.  You might want to take a look at that Wild Card Round opponent before throwing in the towel, folks.

The Washington Redskins are one of the worst 9-7 division winners in NFL history.  Washington did not come close to winning a game over a team with a winning record the entire season.  They lost by 14 to the New York Jets, by 17 to the New England Patriots and by 28 to the Carolina Panthers.  Their biggest win of the year was over an 8-8 Buffalo Bills.

The 'Skins also won the worst division in football.  Nobody else in the NFC East finished at or above .500.  The Philadelphia Eagles already fired head coach Chip Kelly.  The New York Giants will likely fire head coach Tom Coughlin later today.  And if owner Jerry Jones wasn't such an egotistical idiot, he would fire himself at General Manager and head coach Jason Garrett today as well.  Washington was simply the best of a bunch of losers that was guaranteed at least one playoff spot.

A lot is being made about Washington putting up at least 34 points in each of their last 3 games--but they did that against the pathetic defenses of the Giants, Eagles and Cowboys.  And their own defense is anything but intimidating--especially in the secondary.

Have the Packers stunk the second half of the season?  Absolutely.  But they have done it against a much tougher schedule than their upcoming lousy opponent.  And the guys who know best about that--the oddsmakers in Las Vegas--currently have this as a "pick 'em" game--when home field advantage is usually worth about three points.

So come down off the ledge, Packers fans.  Don't be intimidated by that 9-7 record behind Washington's name--and don't think that FedEx Field is that difficult a place to play.  Dallas went in there a month ago with Kellen Moore at quarterback and no Dez Bryant and won.  It's probably going to be incredibly ugly--but your team is likely still going to win.  (Before going back for a  second curb-stomping in Arizona.)