Monday, February 29, 2016

A Wasted Extra Day

As you probably know by now, I am not the biggest fan of winter.  And to have an "extra" day of it foist upon us every four years doesn't make me feel any better about it.  So that is why I am campaigning to have Leap Day moved out of February.

In case you didn't know, Leap Day is put at the end of February because that was the last month of the original Julian calendar developed by the ancient Romans and adopted across most of the Western World.  Now, of course, February is the second month of the calendar year--and "tacking on" an extra day doesn't make as much sense.

However, I am not advocating for the addition of another day to the end of December either.  The last thing we need is another day during "the holidays".  And again, that is another "extra day of winter".  Instead, what I am proposing is a June 31st.

Think about it, an "extra day" of summer--rather than another cold, dreary day of winter. (Yes, those in the Southern Hemisphere would get an "extra day" of winter--but the most-populated areas south of the equator are in temperate zones that don't get nearly as cold as we do up here--and the majority of humans live in the Northern Hemisphere so, majority rules).  June 31st would give us "another day" of golf, walks in the park, time at the beach, driving with the top down on the Jeep, biking on the trails and not having to shovel snow, salt ice or bundle up like we are about to take part in the Iditarod.

We have four years to get ready for the big switch, and if we start now printers will have plenty of time to change their calendar sheets, software companies can update their computer dates and cellphone makers can send us new versions of their operating systems to deal with the switch. 

Now if we could just switch out of Presidential election years, so we get one less day of rhetoric and mudslinging.............

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Other Power of Money

During the Oshkosh School Board discussion this week, member Barbara Herzog used one of the favorite analogies when it comes to increased government spending.  She pulled from her pocket a quarter--representing what it would cost the average homeowner in Oshkosh every day if the April referendum is approved.  She talked about how you can't really buy anything with that quarter if you were to spend it yourself.  But if you gave that quarter to the school district every day--and they added it to all of the quarters paid by everyone else in the district, they could have 28-million dollars worth of programs, security additions and keep open three school buildings.

It sounds like a great deal--if you only see money as something that has to be spent every day.  But money has another possible use--and that is for saving.  Putting away a quarter a day may not sound like much when it comes to a nest egg, but just like the quarters piled up by the school district, the daily quarters you keep can add up as well.

Take for instance a homeowner who puts away a quarter a day in a growth stock mutual fund starting the day their child is born.  If that homeowner sees the average stock market growth rate of 8% a year, that mutual fund would have 44-hundred dollars in it when the child graduates from high school in 18-years.  That would be almost enough to pay for an entire year of tuition and fees at UW Fox Valley--and mean less in student loan debt and less need for public financial aid.

If that same homeowner put away a quarter a day into an IRA for their entire 40 year working careers and saw the same 8% annual growth that would give them more than $30,000--enough to live on for an entire year--and less dependence on Social Security to make ends meet.  An average of 10% growth over those 40 years would mean more than 52-thousand dollars--again, all on just a quarter a day.

Yes it is true that trying to spend a quarter a day won't get you very much--but saving a quarter a day can get you plenty in the long run.  And you won't need to take everybody else's quarters to do it.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Just Hire the Man

It would have been the perfect scene.  A team celebrating a huge victory on the road over a highly-ranked opponent--likely punching their ticket to the post-season--under the direction of an interim coach from whom little was expected when he took over for a legend who quit mid-season after a number of disappointing losses.  In the celebration, the Athletic Director puts his arm around that coach's shoulders and announces to his excited team that he is removing the "interim" label--and that Coach is now theirs for another three or four years.  That is followed by big smiles at a press conference that night announcing the same thing to the media.

Unfortunately, that scenario won't play out for Greg Gard, Barry Alvarez or the Wisconsin Badgers men's basketball team.  Even though Gard has likely wrapped up Big Ten Coach of the Year honors--and got a team that lost to Western Illinois and UW-Milwaukee another winning season in the Big Ten AND an almost-guaranteed spot in the NCAA Tournament for a 18th straight year--Alvarez can't hire him.  At least not yet.

Barry learned the hard way that you don't go around hiring the most-qualified person already on staff when there was outcry on campus following his "anointing" of Bret Bielema as his successor before his final season as Badgers' football coach.  Those in the ivory towers protested, pointing out that Alvarez had failed to follow UW hiring policies by neither posting the position as being available--nor conducting interviews with any other candidates.  Nevermind that history showed Bielema was a good hire, Barry didn't put on the proper dog and pony show before hiring him.

So that means Greg Gard will continue to remain the "interim" head coach through the rest of the season--and then will have to fill out an application for his own job and interview for a position that he has shown over the course of two or three months that he is more than capable of performing.  And that means that Barry Alvarez will have to bring in other candidates--who all know they have no chance of actually being hired--for interviews to make it look like Gard wasn't a pre-determined selection.  You can bet that Rob Jeter at UW-Milwaukee will be asked to drive over to Madison so the "diversity" aspect of the hiring charade is satisfied as well.

And even if Tony Bennett were to give Barry Alvarez a call after the NCAA Tournament and mention that he would be willing to leave Virginia for a return to the Badger state, I hope Barry would turn him down--because he already has someone on the bench who has earned a shot at the job.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The New Definition of Progress

The hot buzzword this year is "progressive".  The Democratic candidates in all races are touting their "progressive" records and are arguing over who is more "progressive".  Non-partisans are using the term to brand themselves and their cities or counties as well.  I think it was used about ten times in the Appleton mayoral debate yesterday.  But just like "don't go there", "talk to the hand" and "bae" have fallen out of favor due to overuse, "progressive" is in danger of suffering public burnout too.

America is by nature a "progressive" country.  Deciding that we were going to elect our own political leaders at all levels was certainly progress.  Establishing a free market economic system that allows people to determine their own success was progress.  Not keeping other humans as slaves was progress.  Replacing the mail with forms of instant communication like telegraphs, the telephone, faxes, e-mail, text messages and video chats was progress.  Damming rivers and building coal-fired power plants to provide electricity to even the most remote parts of the country so people didn't have to rely on windmills or the sun for their energy was progress.  Replacing streetcars and trains with automobiles that allowed anyone to go anywhere they wanted whenever they wanted was progress.  Putting men on the moon and bringing them back was progress.  Putting down Fascism and Socialism around the globe was progress.

But this week, I heard the term "progressive" applied such things as allowing dogs in Appleton parks and establishing a public arts commission in Oshkosh.  How exactly are those things "progressive"?  Some would argue that keeping dogs out of parks represents progress--as the number of dog bite cases and incidents of people stepping in a giant pile of doggy doo has been reduced.  And having giant painted lakeflies on the sidewalks of Oshkosh is moving the human race forward how exactly?

Like KISS putting out a disco record and white guys doing hip-hop, everyone and their brother will be looking to take advantage of the hot, new trend of "progressivism"--until everyone is sick of hearing the word and they move on to the new flavor of the week (which based on polling of younger people may be "collectivism").

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Much Ado About Not Much

Last night, Kobe Bryant paid his final visit to the Bradley Center as the Los Angeles Lakers played the Milwaukee Bucks.  I--like the vast majority of you, based on ratings--didn't watch a single minute of the game.  To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure what all the hubbub over his "retirement tour" is all about.

Yes, Kobe is the third-leading scorer all-time in NBA history.  But like Karl Malone who is number two on the list, to me Kobe just doesn't "feel like" one of the greatest players in the history of the game.  Heck, I'd have a tough time putting him in the top five all-time Lakers.  Is he really better than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor?  Add in other all-timers like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Julius Erving and Bill Russell and it's hard to put Kobe in the top ten greatest NBA players.

Kobe is a product of a league that just was not very good for most of his career.  His was the Post-Michael Jordan NBA that featured a whole lot of guys that were not particularly sound in the fundamentals--but could dunk and had shoe deals and great marketing behind them.  And with the Association selling out the shoe companies and the hip hop record labels, pro basketball became more of an "entertainment product" and less of an actual sport.

Add to that Kobe giving himself a nickname: "The Black Mamba" and that ugly incident with the woman in Colorado (and Kobe's classless claim that his teammate, Shaquille O'Neal, "got away with the same stuff all the time") and you end up with the superstar that really nobody likes all that much.  And yet, here we are "celebrating" his upcoming retirement with special ceremonies before games and giving gifts to a guy that could buy pretty much anything he wants already.

When people talk about the "legacy" that Kobe Bryant will leave in basketball, for me it will be the further ruination of college hoops.  He and Kevin Garnett were among the first to completely forego college basketball and enter the pros from the high school.  Those two are likely heading to the Hall of Fame (along with LeBron James) but for about a decade after they came out, you had a long line of guys that also tried to skip college who flamed out big time.  Now we have the stupid "one and done" system where guys with pro futures attend class for a semester, play one season of college ball and then head to the draft.

So I'll applaud the career of Kobe Bryant, but don't ever expect me to wax nostalgic about his "glory days" like I do with Magic, Bird and Pistol Pete.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Let the Wailing and the Gnashing of Teeth Begin

After 18-years in the News business, I can tell you the two closures that cause the greatest public outcry are public schools and hospitals.  Everyone believes that their child's school should be just two blocks away from their house--and they likely aren't going to survive if a hospital is not within sight of their home.  And now, we have both scenarios possibly playing out here in the Fox Valley.

Here in Oshkosh, there will be much consternation over the possible closure of a middle school and two elementaries--which would then be housed in the former middle school.  Oshkosh has been down this path before.  Consultants came in and re-drew school boundary lines and made recommendations on which buildings to shutter in order to increase efficiency and lower costs.  But that study--like every other study conducted by the Oshkosh School District--was permanently shelved after parents angrily attacked the recommendations and demanded that their under-filled neighborhood school remain open.  (It should be pointed out that none of those members are still on the School Board anymore--some by choice, some by the will of the "angry voters") But here we are again--about ten years later--facing the same economic challenges--and I expect the same angry parental response should the April referendum fail.

Meanwhile, in Neenah and Appleton, the long wait for a recommendation to close their ThedaCare hospitals and to replace them with a single, consolidated facility is underway.  Just like with the closure of schools in Oshkosh, shutting down a hospital will bring out those who predict doom and gloom for the cities.  Especially if Theda Clark in Neenah is not replaced with another hospital within the city limits.  If ThedaCare puts the new hospital in the new Village of Fox Crossing or the Town of Grand Chute, things will get ugly. 

One of the first "big stories" I covered after getting into radio was Bay Area Medical Center's decision to shut down one of the two hospitals it operated in Marinette and Menominee.  The ultimate recommendation was to close the smaller facility in Menominee and move all in-patient and emergency room services to Marinette.  Menominee folks predicted the end of the city because no one was going to want to drive across the river to get their healthcare.  And because the two buildings were owned by the respective counties, the fight turned political--with actual shouting matches between supervisors during joint meetings.

It should be pointed out that Menominee did not whither and die after their hospital moved across the river.  Just like Neenah and Appleton will survive when their hospitals are closed--and just like Oshkosh will move on if a few of its schools are consolidated.  But don't tell that to the Chicken Littles running around telling us the sky is already falling.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Less of a Ripoff

Today I can report that one of the longest-running scams in Wisconsin is coming to an end.  There's no need to thank law enforcement, the state Division of Consumer Protection or the Better Business Bureau for cracking down on these scammer because the Green Bay Packers have voluntarily decided to stop charging regular season prices for pre-season tickets.

To me, it was always the height of the NFL's arrogance to believe that their product is so great that people should fork out the same amount for games that count in the standings and those that don't count--and usually feature extended playing time for guys that never make the final roster.  The Packers used to justify this ripoff by saying that fans attending pre-season games were "still getting the full Lambeau Field Experience".  I guess they meant that you still had to pay $30 to park, you still sat on an aluminum bench, watered-down beer was still $8.00 a can, they still played that stupid Todd Rundgren song after touchdowns and the drunk guy two rows behind you still yelled as many profanities at the players as he did during regular season games.

To show you how badly ticket buyers were getting jobbed, the Packers are lowering those pre-season prices by nearly 50% across the board.  I saw the sheepish look on Vice President Aaron Popkey's face while talking to the media yesterday about how season ticketholders can now re-sell their useless pre-season tickets for "something closer to their real value"--which, let's be honest, is next to nothing.

Which brings me to the one element of the pre-season ticket scam that will continue: their purchase will remain mandatory for season ticket holders.  Even at reduced prices, the Packers know that without forcing their customers to buy the exhibition tickets few people will actually want them--no matter how great the "Lambeau Field Experience" may be.  You may be old enough to remember when Packers pre-season games weren't on live TV because they didn't sell out.  And when you would watch the tape-delayed replay on Sunday afternoon you would see that Lambeau was half-full at best.  Eventually, the light went on over Bob Harlan's head--"Let's force season ticketholders to buy the pre-season as well!  What are they going to do--give up their cherished spot on the list?"

At least it's a first step toward no longer completely ripping off the customer.  Now they just need to trim the number of exhibition games to two.  Unless the team needs all of that money to buy more land and to build more hotels to--you know--"stay competitive with the rest of the league".

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Forbidden Fruit

In Biblical lore, the Serpent tempted Eve and Adam with the fruit of the forbidden tree.  Eating the fruit--which most Western religions teach was an apple--would give the couple the knowledge of all things.  That is a excellent analogy to what is going on with the FBI and Apple--as the Feds try to force the technology company to hack one of the IPhones owned by the suspects in the San Bernadino terrorist attacks.

By all accounts, the National Security Administration already has the technology to get into a phone like that--but in sharing that technology with the FBI in this case, the process would be compromised as it would become public record.  (Their current use of so called "zero-days" tech is authorized by the secret courts established by the Patriot Act after 9/11)  Apparently, the Department of Justice experts aren't as skilled in hacking so they are left with no other option than to go to the maker of the phone.

But Apple isn't so keen on the idea.  No, they don't want to appear to support Islamic Terrorism.  However, providing the Government with a backdoor way into their products won't sell well with customers--who believe their device should be safe from such intrusion.  What's more, the Federal Government has a very poor record of keeping such information from being hacked by outside forces.  Let's not forget that Edward Snowden revealed the NSA's capabilities to spy on us in the name of "protecting our freedom".

And that is why Apple should fight the FBI and the DOJ.  Today's case may involve known Islamic Terrorists--but the next one may be just "suspected terrorism".  And the case after that will be "suspected child porn" or "suspected wire fraud" or maybe just a few agents with an axe to grind and the technology now available to them to make a person's life a living hell or the kid in a basement somewhere that's good with computers and just used the FBI's routers to access all of your personal information.

So, do we partake of the Forbidden Fruit and give up more of our individual freedom--in the name of "greater security"?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Bernie the Bum

Want a sure-fire stumper of a trivia question the next time a couple of drinks are on the line at the pub?  Ask what Bernie Sanders did for a living before getting into elected office.  Even those who are listed as "career politicians" can point to some private sector job experience that preceded their first run for office.  But no source seems to provide a "career" for Sanders prior to his election as Mayor of Burlington, Vermont in 1981--at the age of 40.

Wikipedia--which likely sees Bernie's page maintained by his most ardent supporters who have nothing better to do all day than to edit Wikipedia pages--can only come up with a list of what appear to be part-time and short-term jobs like registering people for food stamps, doing psychiatric work with kids (even though he has no degree in psychiatry), a short-lived period as a carpenter and writing articles for Socialist publications.  There's nothing like practicing law or even running a ladies clothing store.

Perhaps Sanders would have had an easier time finding gainful employment in his twenties and thirties if he had applied himself a little better at the prestigious University of Chicago, where he admittedly spent little time on academics because he found it "boring".  Instead, Sanders spent most of his time in the Windy City organizing and taking part in protests--belonging to pretty much every student protest group on campus--and extending those actions into the city itself--with one arrest on his record, which supporters are now trumpeting as "proof" that Bernie has credibility with African-Americans and their "plight".

One thing that I guess we can give Senator Sanders credit for is that he truly practices what he preaches.  Somehow, at the age of 74, Sanders has no assets of real value.  Everything that he "owns" is listed in his wife's name--including their house.  I'm guessing that Bernie's credit score lower than those portrayed by the actors in all of those payday lender ads on TV.  His municipal and Congressional pensions are the only things of value that Sanders has to show for more than 50-years of "work".  And if total government dependence through your entire life isn't the definition of Socialism--then I don't know what is.

When I went to school at UW-Madison, there were always these "orators" around the Library mall.  Most would go on and on and on for hours about religion--others would deliver repetitive diatribes about "social injustice"--and some were even more mentally unstable and you couldn't tell what the heck they were talking about.  Often they would be collecting nomination signatures for some local office--and they would usually get on the ballot and finish a distant last.  Bernie Sanders is one of those guys on the Library Mall--except he actually got elected and managed to work his way up the political ladder.

No wonder Millenials are flocking to his campaign--because Bernie Sanders, like them, has never actually had a job.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Thank You All

Last night we hosted our big Diamond Giveaway party as part of our 75th Anniversary here at WOSH and it was really a great time.  I'm sure that our winner--Arlen Belisle--and his wife were the happiest people at the end of the night.  But I left with a real positive feeling as well.

I was really touched by the number of our listeners who thanked us for the job we do here every morning in providing them with the latests in news, weather and sports.  And many also told me how much they enjoy My Two Cents every day.  I admit, this is a one-way form of communication--I give you my opinion, and usually only the angriest of people call me or send me emails threatening to never listen again (until they send me another angry email or voice mail message a couple of months later).

The most common feedback I get is usually from Oshkosh Common Council members who don't like hearing their own words played back on the air for more than the five people that show up for their meetings and the couple of hundred that watch public access TV.  I usually get a chuckle when my reporter shoots me a text "The Council is talking about you again".  So to hear from so many of our listeners and their appreciation for what we do is great.

I'll admit, there are more than a few days that I sit down to write this feature with little or no enthusiasm for the project.  It may have been a late night, or I may doubt that the listeners want to hear about the 100th near accident I had in one of the roundabouts where last night I was forced to drive onto the paver bricks to avoid being hit by a silver car whose driver decided that he was no longer going to wait for traffic from the left and was just going to gun it into the inside lane.  Nothing like showing up for a public event in a suit that you nearly soiled on the way over.

But again, thank you so much for the positive feedback and the appreciation shown for what we do here at WOSH.  I'll go back to being the "angry, white man" one guy at the Oshkosh Business Expo called all of us here last month.

Monday, February 15, 2016

It Shouldn't Be that Important

Mixed in with all of the vitriol and flat-out celebrating from liberals on social media and the internet Saturday following the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia--a perfect example of the "tolerance" preached by those on the left, but not actually practiced--there was one bit of great insight.  Ross Douthat of the New York Times offered a thoughtful retrospective on Scalia's term on the high court and finished it with a paragraph on the knock-down-drag-out-fight that will ensue between Congress and the White House over naming a successor before the Presidential election.

Douthat points out that Scalia himself would hate the idea of Congress delaying the appointment of a new Justice--and making that appointment the key issue in a Presidential election--because Scalia didn't believe the Supreme Court should have that big an impact on the average American's life.  As a Constitutionalist, Scalia believed that the role of government should be limited.  That's why when you read the list of Amendments dating back to the early days of the Republic, you notice that they list all of the things Congress shall not do. 

Scalia hated that the Court had to decide if the Government can force you to buy health insurance--and his dissent against Chief Justice John Roberts actively seeking a loophole in tax law to preserve the Affordable Care Act (even though the attorneys for the Obama Administration never even made that argument) is an opinion that law school students will be reading for generations.  It would have been fun to see Scalia remain on the bench if Bernie Sanders somehow pulled off the greatest miracle in modern political history by first getting elected President--and then getting Congress to pass a single proposal--and trying to expand Government control of our lives even more.

But now he is gone.  And there likely won't be a day that goes by that both sides won't be telling their hardcore supporters that replacing him will be the "most important issue facing this country"--when that is the last thing Justice Scalia would have ever believed.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Who Says You Can't Fight City Hall?

Score one for the "little guy", as this week a Winnebago County Judge rules against the City of Oshkosh in its lawsuit against the founder of the Downtown Pub Crawl.  The judge found that Joe Kubiak--the man that drama queen Mayor Steve Cummings once claimed was "holding the city hostage"--is not responsible for securing a special event permit or paying the fee for that permit.  It ends a nearly two-year legal battle between the two sides--that only added more to the taxpayers' expense.

So, you are probably wondering why am I celebrating Joe Kubiak's win just a couple of days after throwing my support behind charging Sawdust Days more in special event fees.  The answer is simple: the Pub Crawl takes place in private businesses--not public facilities--and really does not require any additional city services.  Pub Crawl doesn't tie up two-thirds of a park.  It doesn't force the closure of streets or boat landings.  It doesn't keep other people from using ball diamonds, tennis courts or picnic shelters.  And it doesn't plug into city-owned electrical or plumbing systems.

The city accrues added expenses on the nights of Pub Crawls because officials believe almost every available police officer on the force needs to be in the downtown area just because more people than usual are drinking.  But if that means Pub Crawl needs to have a special event permit and to pay for the added police "protection"--who foots the bill on New Year's Eve, when there are a lot more people out drinking (and more driving drunk as well)?  How about on Saint Patrick's Day?  Do the Catholic Churches get sent bills because they are the one's "scheduling" the event?  Or Cinco de Mayo?  Are we billing the Mexican Consulate in Chicago?  Should Mark Murphy expect a summons to appear in court because the Packers didn't get a special event permit to allow people to celebrate another Super Bowl appearance by packing area bars?

Besides, the city made back a nice chunk of change this past fall when they--with the blessing of Chancellor Andrew Leavitt--busted a number of underage drinking parties in the campus area before Pub Crawl even started.  And if they need more revenue, just increase the fines for open container violations and public urination citations--which are the most "heinous crimes" committed on those nights.

Knowing the nature of some of the city leaders, this fight is not nearly done.  Get ready for round two--which will be the City of Oshkosh versus the Downtown Bar Owners.  Remember, the cops were keeping a list of taverns that served "crawlers"--and they will be labeled the next "hostage takers".

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The One Man Revolution

"We are starting a political revolution tonight"

That was the comment from Bernie Sanders after his expected win in neighboring New Hampshire last night.  Sanders and his followers believe that their close lose in the closed caucuses in Iowa and their win in the tiny Granite State are signs that America at large is embracing the idea of Democratic Socialism.  But when the Clinton Political Machine and the "establishment" at the Democratic Party eventually win out in this long process, who is going to lead the "revolution"?

Keep in mind that Bernie Sanders is 74-years old.  Ronald Reagan was 73 when he was elected to his second term in 1984.  And he's not even a Democrat.  He was elected to the House of Representatives and to the Senate as an Independent in Vermont.  He's running for President as a Democrat because he knows a third party candidacy would be political suicide--and by at least claiming to be a Dem, he would get a place on stage for at least a couple of early debates.

So if a 78-year old Bernie Sanders decides not to run in 2020, who becomes the Democratic Socialist candidate?  The next most-liberal member of the Senate is Al Franken.  The convenient thing about Al running for President would be that he could do his own parodies on Saturday Night Live--since he is very familiar with how the show works.  Would Russ Feingold pick up the Democratic Socialist flag and run with it--even if he doesn't win a return to the Senate this fall?

It's easy for one candidate who makes for good late night television appearances and who delivers a populist message of being Robin Hood to build a niche following for one election cycle.  But that doesn't automatically mean the next person who claims to be "next Bernie Sanders" will enjoy the same popularity.  And would Sanders even "anoint" someone as his "successor"?

The scary thing is that there could be a local "revolution" brewing--as city councils and school boards across the nation would eventually fill up with people who believe in high rates of taxation and government promises to fix all of your ills--without actually having to run as declared Socialists.  That is much easier to do in elections with 10% turnout and no major media campaigns.  That may be an even greater threat to America than some old hippie enjoying a couple of months in the spotlight.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Smaller Would Be Better

It appears the annual Sawdust Days festival in Oshkosh is reaching a crossroads.  Last night, the Oshkosh Advisory Parks Board approved a new slate of special event fees to cover the revenue that is lost when events prevent the general public from using things like boat launches and shelters.  For Sawdust Days, that would mean an additional $7000 a year in fees--as they prevent the rental of most shelters in Menominee Park--while also blocking the main boat launch and docks for several days every July.  That will be on top of the fees they are already charged for city services like police, ambulance and electrical service.

As Chairperson Ellen Schmidt has pointed out numerous times, Sawdust Days doesn't have the money to pay for such fees--and she continues to hint that they may just pack up the tent and go home if they continue to get charged more and more every years.  But Parks Boardmember Bill Gogolewski provided an option for them last night that I have been advocating for years: downsize the festival.

I know the Sawdust Days people take great pride in what they put on each year--and they firmly believe that admission should be free.  But free don't pay the bills.  And when you hold fast to limiting your revenues like that, then your expenses have to be cut.  As Gogolewski pointed out, if Sawdust Days didn't tie up the boat landings and docks they could save almost $4000 right there.  And if the festival went from five days to just a couple of days, their special event permit fee from the city would be reduced by almost 60%.

The time has come for the Sawdust Days committee to let go of what they consider to be the "traditional festival" and adjust to modern realities.  Ms Schmidt responded to downsizing suggestions with the pat answer of "we've always done that" when it came to the suggestion of getting rid of the midway rides or one of the music stages or not having a rodeo on one of the ball diamonds.

If somebody thinks there is enough demand in Oshkosh for crappy midway rides they can rent the parking lots of the former KMart or Wal-Mart and charge people as they drive in to do the rides.  If members of the Mexican-American community believe there is enough demand for their music and vendors in Oshkosh, they can rent the Sunnyview Expo Center and charge people admission to get in the gate or the buildings.  The Buckskinners can pay their own park rental fees and set up at any time during the summer.  And the city and Festival Foods can continue to pay for the 4th of July fireworks.

So it's up to the Sawdust Days folks now.  Put on a small and still free event--or watch as the same number of people show up for the fireworks at night anyway.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Brutal Working Conditions

Instead of heading into your boss's office to demand a raise, you might want to consider asking for tenure instead.  Last week, the UW Board of Regents approved a new policy on tenure for faculty which became "necessary" after the Legislature eliminated those job protections from state statutes.

The new tenure tenets are seen as being "tougher" than what UW professors enjoyed in the past.  There will now be actual job performance reviews--conducted every five years.  Yes, we will now take a look at how good or bad a job someone is doing in the classroom every five years--which is an improvement from the total lack of any performance review ever under the previous tenure policy.  How would you like it if you never got any feedback on the job you were doing for five years?  Wouldn't you wonder about your performance at some point?  Wouldn't you want to know if you are getting better or worse at what you do?  Or would you just assume that you were great--and there's no point in having someone tell you that.

Those not meeting the standards will come under a tight control--as they will have to show improvement within 18-months or face the possibility of termination.  I don't know how someone could expect to sleep under the pressure of having a year and a half to show some kind of improvement in what they do.  And even then, quite possibly still not get fired for failure to get better.

The most "controversial" provision in the new tenure policy is that Chancellors now have the authority to terminate programs--and the professors that teach them--for financial reasons.  That could mean bad news for the tenured instructors that teach 17th Century Russian Literature attended by six students a year or courses dealing with celebrity culture that have zero academic merit but appeal to kids obsessed with stardom.  They may have to go, to make room for professors that teach math or science.

The arguments offered by those who oppose the changes and wanted to keep the old tenure rules break down into two categories: 1--This is the way it has always been and 2--That is the standard in Academics.  To which we should reply: 1--I guess we should go back to just putting babies in boxes on the front seats of cars instead of car seats then and 2--If everyone else is jumping off a cliff, that means we have to as well?

I'd work a little harder on this My Two Cents--but my review isn't for another four and a half years.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Trying Hard Not To Hate

Much of Super Bowl week has been spent trying to convince America that they shouldn't hate Cam Newton.  The Carolina Panthers quarterback is poised to become the face of the NFL with an MVP regular season and probable Super Bowl MVP trophy coming his way.  Yet, Newton remains a polarizing figure.

A lot of people don't like Cam's on-field demeanor.  The excessive celebrations that started with his "Superman" move--looking like he was pulling open his shirt to reveal an "S" on his chest--and then added a few dance moves and then this year the addition of "dabbing"--sort of an old-school "bow to the crowd".  If Cam were to add another move or two for the Super Bowl, he's going to end up looking like John Cleese from the "Ministry of Silly Walks" skit on Monty Python's Flying Circus.

And then there's the taking of team selfies on the sideline before the game is even over, the yelling and jumping around in pre-game warmups, and the outrageous wardrobe selections for press conferences and team appearances that also grate on people.  Some of us can't help but recall the theft charges filed against Newton during his freshman year at Florida--which saw him steal a laptop computer from another student and then throw said computer out of the window when the cops showed up.  That led to his transfer to a junior college. 

Some fans still refer Newton as "Scam" after his return to Division One football was marred by his father's open bragging about how much schools were offering to pay him to have his son play for their team.  The inept NCAA investigated but couldn't find any concrete evidence that Cam got paid--and he led Auburn to a National Title and won a Heisman Trophy--both of which large sections of the country believe are forever tainted.

Talking heads and writers have spent countless hours this week trying to convince football fans none of that stuff mentioned before should matter--and that we should embrace Cam Newton as the game's next great star.  I've heard Cam's on-field celebrations compared to the "joy" with which Magic Johnson played basketball--and everyone loved Magic.  That the selfies and the dabbing are a generational thing and that we are just sticks in the mud if we can't learn to enjoy it.  And, of course, the race card has been played often as some wonder why Cam's dancing is an issue, but Peyton Manning's alleged use of Human Growth Hormone has practically been a non-issue this entire week.

There is one thing that I do like about Cam Newton--and it comes in his new commercial for Beats Audio.  He lists all of the perceived slights that motivate him to workout harder (wearing his Beats headphones) and then addresses the belief that he hurts people's feelings with his actions.  His response: "It's too bad they don't make band-aids for feelings".  I'm using that in every conversation about political correctness and "inclusive speech" from now on.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

So Much For the Accountability Factor

I had a chance to engage an Internal Revenue Service agent in an informal, off-the-record conversation this week.  I found out that morale is low at the IRS right now due to staffing cuts that are making it nearly impossible to keep up with returns and collections.  We discussed an amended return that I filed almost three months ago which still has not been processed.  I half-jokingly asked the agent how they were going to enforce the Affordable Care Act requirement that everyone must have health insurance and to collect the penalty--I mean tax for constitutionality purposes--if there were fewer auditors.  For a response I got an exaggerated eye roll and a "Yeah, like that was going to happen".

So it sounds like the hallmark legacy of the Obama Administration--a lack of personal responsibility on the part of anyone--will continue.  Based on my conversation, I'm left with the belief that someone could either falsely claim to have insurance--knowing the possibility of being audited is greatly diminished now--or just not pay the penalty--I mean tax for constitutionality purposes--since there won't be anyone trying to collect it.

And speaking of collections, it turns out the IRS is  hamstrung by language in the ACA when it come to enforcing the penalty--er, tax--provision.  The only option the IRS has is to take it out of someone's refund.  If you owe Uncle Sam on your return, the tax is added on--but there is no immediate penalty for not paying that portion.  What's more, the IRS cannot put a lien on your property or garnish your wages to collect said tax--as it can do with all other tax debts.  Their only hope is that someday you will be getting a refund--and then they can deduct what you owe.

So in effect, the Affordable Care Act has created 20-million people who are violating the "Law of the Land" as the President likes to call it every time Republicans try to repeal ObamaCare--by still not having health insurance.  And now there could be 20-million tax scofflaws as well who don't ever have to fear being "brought to justice".

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Holiday From Holidays

If you were tired of hearing about a "war on Christmas", get ready for a couple of weeks of complaining about a "war on Valentine's Day".  A St Paul, Minnesota elementary school is banning the celebration of Valentine's Day this year--because it could be perceived as "offensive" to those who do not mark the holiday.  In fact, the principal of the school says he is doing away with the celebration of all "dominant" holidays in an effort to be more "inclusive of his diverse student body".

We all know what that language means: marking holidays celebrated by white, Christian students is "offensive and a micro-agression"to racial and religious minorities--while marking white, Christian students mark holidays celebrated by those of a minority or immigrant background is being "tolerant".  But that is not the focus of this My Two Cents.  Instead,  I want to enthusiastically jump on-board this "war against Valentine's Day". 

In elementary school, Valentine's can be a source of frustration, consternation and angst for young boys.  When I was a kid, the day was marked by the exchange of those cut-out cards and candy hearts--both featuring lame sayings like "Be mine" and "You're Sweet".  Class rules required you to bring a card and candy for everyone--so that the unpopular kids wouldn't feel bad about being unpopular.

But as an 8-year old, countless hours would be spent wrangling over what card and what candy heart to give to everyone.  You weren't about give another guy a card saying "Be Mine" or "I think you're sweet!"  That is what the "Happy Valentines Day" or "You're Cool" cards and hearts were for.  But there were never enough of those to go around.  Plus, you didn't want to give the shall we say "awkward" girls anything that indicated in any way that you might like them--as they would never let you alone on the playground or on the bus--leading to endless teasing from your friends and angry denials that she had given you cooties.

So rant and rave all you want Bill O'Reilly about your "war on Valentine's Day"--but there are probably a couple hundred grade-school boys breathing a sigh of relief right now.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Over-reaction Tuesday

In the NFL, the day after a full slate of games is what we like to call "Over-reaction Monday".  If your team wins, the talking heads on sports radio and TV are debating which jersey color they should wear in the Super Bowl--because it is clear that no one is going to beat them the rest of the season.  If your team loses, the talking heads on sports radio and TV are calling for the firing of the head coach and the general manager while trying to find one more game on the schedule they might have a chance to win.  It's the nature of the sport--since there really is nothing to do but rehash what happened yesterday because another contest is a week away yet.

Welcome to the "Over-reaction Tuesday" of the political world.  The 24-hour news channels will be filled with "post Iowa Caucus analysis" for at least the next two or three days--as "experts" pore over the results of voting done by about 15% of eligible voters in that state in an archaic and exclusionary format.  But that certainly won't prevent everyone from making broad pronouncements.  Well here are my impressions from last night's festivities:

Hillary Clinton is really disliked by a lot of people in Iowa.  Consider that the anointed candidate by the Democratic Party Machine was barely able to beat an avowed Socialist from a state with an even smaller population than Iowa.  Just like Barack Obama in 2008, Bernie Sanders benefited from the "anyone but Hillary" mindset within the Iowa Democratic party to make it s close race.

There are a lot of Republicans in Iowa that vote based on religion.  Ted Cruz is the "Evangelical Candidate" this time around.  Just like Rick Santorum was in 2012 when he won in Iowa (and nowhere else) and just like Mike Huckabee was in 2008 when he won in Iowa (and nowhere else).  Apparently, Huckabee wasn't "Evangelical enough" this time around--since he got less than three percent support and immediately dropped out of the race.

You don't win elections just because you are famous.  "The Celebrity Candidate" Donald Trump is likely wondering how he lost to Ted Cruz (and almost to Marco Rubio as well) last night.  Trump is famous.  Trump is on TV all the time.  Trump talks louder than everyone else.  How could Trump have lost?  The answer is simple, he didn't put in the work.  He didn't do the coffee shop "listening sessions".  He didn't do the fairs.  He didn't call the supporters on Caucus Day to remind them to bring as many people as they could with them Monday night.  Trump thought he could just show up, be famous and win.  And with no real party infrastructure support behind him to do that kind of real "grassroots work"--his poll numbers in other states likely won't equal ballot box success either.

So, next week it's New Hampshire's turn--followed by "Over-reaction Wednesday"--where everything we thought and said today won't matter.

Monday, February 1, 2016

No Way To Elect a Leader

The 2016 Presidential election "gets real" tonight with the long-awaited Iowa Caucuses.  But instead of witnessing a great event of small "d" democracy--we are instead reminded why this is no way to elect a President.  The Iowa Caucus is an archaic form of delegate selection that harkens back to the days when party bosses ruled the political world and direct elections were a sham. 

I find it interesting that Democrats who cry every two years about the need for Early Voting and Weekend Voting and Vote-By-Mail and "making it as easy to vote as possible" still allow Iowa to use this system.  Caucuses start at 7:00 pm in all counties--and if you are late or you have to work or there is an emergency that comes up at the last minute, tough luck you cannot participate in the process.  And there is no "absentee caucusing".  What's more, you must be a registered Democrat or Republican to take part in your respective caucus--no independents or undecideds allowed here.

And once you are at the caucus you are literally locked in--and are not allowed out until the process is complete.  And what a process it is--although the two parties do run their caucuses differently.  In a Republican caucus, representatives of every candidate get in front of everybody to do a little spiel and then pieces of paper are passed out and you write down you choice for President and put it in a box.  The votes are tallied and passed on to the state party--which keeps a running total for the media.  Of course, that isn't always accurate.  If I was to ask you who won the 2012 Republican caucus, you would probably say "Mitt Romney"--because that is what was reported the night of and the day after.  But when final results were canvassed and tabulated a couple of weeks later, it turned out that Rick Santorum actually won the caucuses--but Romney had already won New Hampshire by that time and was pretty much on his way to the nomination.

Democrats also have the representatives making last minute pitches for support--but that is followed by open-view voting.  No secret ballot here--as supporters of each candidate are directed to separate areas in the room--which can lead to some awkwardness--as the two people supporting Martin O'Malley will likely look at each other and say "Dude, we are losers".  They could then decide to join Hillary Clinton group or the Bernie Sanders group to avoid such embarrassment.  And even if the O'Malley duo wants to stand strong in support of their man--they won't be allowed to in the "second round".  That is because caucus rules only allow delegates to go to candidates with at least 15% support.  So the O'Malley duo will be ordered to join the Clinton or Sanders group--even if they hate both of those candidates.  If fewer than 15-percent want to remain "uncommitted" to any candidate in the race, they too are forced to pick a side.  And at the end of the night, everyone there knows how everyone else voted.  That shouldn't make things awkward at all.

So enjoy the Iowa Caucus hype today and stay glued to your radios, TV and Twitter for running delegate totals.  Just remember, this is no way to elect a leader.