Friday, April 29, 2016

Someone Must Be Held Accountable

I would hope that there are a number of high-level meetings going on at Neenah City Hall today to discuss why misinformation was provided to the press and the public for so long in connection with the hostage situation and fatal shooting at Eagle Nation Cycles back in December.  Since that day, Police Chief Kevin Wilkinson told us that his officers shouted for Michael Funk to drop his handgun after he escaped from the building--before opening fire on him.  Wilkinson also said that those officers then rushed in trying to save Funk's life--and that he was taken to Theda Clark--where he eventually died.  It was a version of events Wilkinson reiterated first when the ambulance company and ThedaCare claimed there was no patient taken to the hospital that day--and again when Funk's family filed a $3.5-Million lawsuit against the city alleging officers opened fire upon Funk without warning--and then left him lying in the street to die.

But on Thursday, USA Today Wisconsin Network posted dashcam video from a Neenah Police Department squad car that showed pretty much everything Wilkinson said that happened was wrong--and pretty much everything Funk's family said happened was correct.  The video shows Funk jumping out of the building and trying to run away when officers opened fire on him.  No audible warnings to "drop your gun!" or "get on the ground!".  Then, an armored vehicle moves to the scene--but no one rushes out to help Funk or to even check if he is still alive.

In interviews with the media on Thursday, Wilkinson admitted to having seen the dashcam video--but offered no explanation for why he did not revise his version of events that day until the newspaper released the video.  He also offered the excuse that his statement that Funk was warned to drop his weapon before being shot was not based on comments by his officers themselves--but rather from witnesses--who can often times be unreliable in their recall of events in very stressful situations.

I'm sure that an attorney--perhaps one at City Hall--advised the Neenah Police Department to stand by its initial version of events at Eagle Nation--especially after the Funk family filed its lawsuit.  But as public officials who need the public's trust to properly carry out their duties, this obstructionism will likely do more harm than the acts captured in the video themselves.  And now those officials who both took part in and authorized this intentional effort to mis-inform the public must be held accountable--and I'm not talking about paying civil judgements that are covered by the taxpayers.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Most Pointless Major Announcement in the History of Major Announcements

I have to admit, that when we got the alert that Ted Cruz was planning a "major announcement" on Wednesday that I just assumed that God had told him to give up on his Presidential campaign.  At this point that is the only "major" development that could happen.  Instead, Cruz took the outrageous step of announcing that Carly Fiorina will be his "running mate". 

I guess that in an election that has been the most bizarre in recent memory it would make sense that a candidate with no chance at the nomination would select a Vice Presidential nominee.  Justin Bieber may as well announce his date for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony today.  Or the Cubs should let the city of Chicago know what route they are going to use for their World Series Victory Parade--because there is about as much chance of those things happening as there is of Cruz-Fiorina actually appearing on a ballot near you this November.

Nonetheless, everyone was taking this "major announcement" seriously yesterday.  They even had "Cruz and Carly" t-shirts, signs and bumper stickers ready for everyone.  Fiorina had a speech full of "we's" written for her and pundits actually had a serious discussion about how this would "re-energize" the Cruz campaign.

Apparently everyone has forgotten that Carly Fiorina had next to no support while she was actually running for President.  She was relegated to the "opening debates" while there were 12-candidates still in the race.  She never had double-digit support in any polls and barely got over three percent of the vote in the couple of caucuses and primaries while running.  So what 'energy" does she bring to a campaign that exists only to keep Donald Trump from reaching the magic number of delegates so that Paul Ryan can end up getting the nomination in Cleveland?

All yesterday's "major announcement" ensured is that we will have to listen to two defeated and dejected people when the next Ted Cruz "major announcement" details his ending his futile effort to be the Republican nominee for President.

Franklin Roosevelt's Vice President John Nance Garner once said the position "wasn't worth a warm bucket of spit".  What is it worth to be a Vice Presidential "selection" that never gets on the ballot?  My guess is it's equal to a cold pile of elephant dung.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Nothing To See Here

An interesting battle is playing out in a Federal Court as media outlets try to gain access to 11,000 documents pertaining to a lawsuit between investors in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the Government.  For those not familiar, the Federal Government pumped billions of dollars into the mortgage giants in an effort to stem the tide of home foreclosures after the housing market bubble burst in 2008.  They were also used as "toxic investment dump sites"--taking over the properties that were hopelessly underwater that were held by the "too big to fail banks" that also got bailout cash from the Government.

Those "too big to fail banks" eventually paid back the money the Fed gave them to stay afloat--and have gone back to impressive profits again.  But Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have not paid back a single penny of what they "owe"--despite the Treasury collecting $228-BILLION from the two entities in just three years.  And that is why the investors are suing--because they aren't seeing any dividends.  Initially, the Fed was going to collect just 10% of profits to "pay back" their investment--but now they have decided to keep 100% of the profits--or about $40-BILLION.

Documents detailing why Federal officials decided to renege on their initial agreement, where all of that money is going, and what plans they have for Fannie and Freddie (there is a belief that they will be sold off to the "too big to fail" banks themselves--giving them almost exclusive control of the mortgage markets) are currently blocked from public view by the Obama Administration.  The White House is using claims of "executive privilege", "attorney-client privilege" and "deliberative process" to keep all 11-thousand documents secret.  However, a Federal Judge did find that none of those excuses hold water--as the documents would only cause "embarrassment" for the Administration and the Fed--not a financial crisis.  This is where it should be pointed out that President Obama promised to be the "most open and transparent administration in history". 

It's too bad Hillary Clinton never served as Treasury Secretary--then we could have just hacked her private server and we'd have all of these documents already.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Corrupt Bargain

Some of you may be "shocked" that Ted Cruz and John Kasich have decided to "tank" certain states in advance of today's primaries so that one or the other does better against Donald Trump in the effort to keep him from getting the majority of delegates needed to secure the GOP nomination.  Some may wonder why you wouldn't actively try to convince as many people as possible to voter for you--instead of hoping people will just vote against the other guy.  Some wonder why the two didn't come to this agreement sooner--saving them both a lot of money and effort in a number of other states.

The Trumpster is of course railing against this strategy--calling it an "unprecedented effort" to target just him.  Well, if The Donald knew his US history and politics, he would know this isn't the first time such a deal has been struck.  In fact, he's missing out on using the great title given to one such agreement in the past: "The Corrupt Bargain".

The Presidential election of 1824 saw John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay and Andrew Jackson split the Electoral College Vote in such a way that none of them were able to secure the majority of votes needed to win the Presidency.  That sent the election into the House of Representatives--where Clay was the Speaker of the House.  Despite that position, Clay didn't have enough support to win in the House, so he convinced his fellow members to vote for Adams--who then turned around and named Clay his Secretary of State (which apparently was a more prestigious position back in those days than it is now).  That left Jackson and his supporters howling--and Old Hickory to coin the phrase "The Corrupt Bargain".  (It should be noted that Jackson crushed Adams in the 1828 elections--as voters bought into Jackson's view of the previous election).

And so we are left to wonder what deal has been struck behind the scenes at the Cruz and Kasich campaign headquarters?  Cruz has far more delegates and cash than Kasich--so is he the one setting the terms?  Kasich is still in the race for only two reasons: He thinks he can win a brokered convention in his home state of Ohio--or he thinks he can still be some kind of "kingmaker" at the convention and can leverage a Vice-Presidential nomination out of the deal.  For Cruz, his only hope is that Kasich assigns his delegates to him if Trump is not nominated on the first ballot.

But let's get the Trumpkins going on using "The Corrupt Bargain II" in their tweets and Facebook posts--if for no other reason than to make it look like they know a little something about politics and history.

Monday, April 25, 2016

From the Mouths of Others

In politics it is often the messenger--and not the message itself--that is most important.  That has pretty much been the basis for the Bernie Sanders campaign--which finally appears to be running out of steam following a decisive loss in New York last week.  But just imagine if the other candidates in the race had been calling for the very same entitlements and benefits as Sanders--just not as a former hippie who should be yelling at people in a park somewhere.

Take for instance if Donald Trump went to every one of his rallies and told people that the Federal Government should pay for his grandchildren's college education.  "My grandkids--who are very great by the way, geniuses who probably could be teachers at the colleges but that's besides the point--should be going to college for free because that is only fair".  People on the left would be going insane with rage that a self-declared billionaire wanted to take money "desperately needed for education" to fund his own grandkids college.

Or imagine if Senator Ted Cruz told his rallies that the Federal Government should foot the bill for his kids' daycare expenses while he and his wife criss-cross the country trying to win the nomination.  "We can't have that cost keeping us away from doing God's work!"  Again, liberals would howl that such resources would be wasted on someone as rich as Cruz and his wife.

Perhaps Hillary Clinton should have told her supporters that is it her right to have taxpayers cover the costs of going to the hospital if she happens to fall off the stage after giving a $250,000 speech to Goldman-Sachs executives and hurts herself again.  The usual bored silence of her rallies would be replaced by low boos and hisses from the crowd.  Chelsea Clinton could also demand that the Clinton Foundation be required by law to continue to pay her multi-million dollar salary while she takes six months of maternity leave from whatever non-job she actually has with the Foundation.

And House Speaker Paul Ryan could introduce a bill that would increase his Social Security benefits and allow him to collect those benefits even earlier without a reduction in those levels over the course of his retirement.  "There is no need for someone like me to continue to work beyond the age of 57--especially after having to work so hard for as many years as I have".  Protesters at the Capitol wouldn't be able to paint their "Greed" signs fast enough.

While those other politicos aren't saying the same things as Bernie Sanders--they will be getting those same exact benefits.  A number of studies find that it will be rich kids that benefit the most from "free college educations" and it is the rich that will get most of the money when Social Security benefits are increased.  That is because Sanders' Socialist plans are not means-based--everyone gets them whether they need the benefits or not (and that is mainly because if there was means-testing for free college, most of the white kids packing Sanders rallies would still find themselves paying for college--which kind of defeats the whole "I'm getting something out of this" vibe upon which he relies).  But just think about those other candidates saying the same things when the Bernie Bros go on about "fairness and equality".

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Age of Over-Accomodation

The story this week that a San Francisco Christian group is suing the city over the installation of an outdoor urinal likely had you scratching your head.  "Why would a city allow people to just pee in the open?" you likely were asking yourself.  The answer is simple: We now live in an age of over-accommodation.

The park in question has bathroom facilities in it.  And the city is building a dozen more for people to use--so there is no need for people to pee in public.  But some of the people that hang out there plain refuse to use the indoor facilities.  Maybe they feel they are somehow helping the environment by not using a flushing toilet or urinal.  Maybe they feel a "greater connection to nature" by answering the call of nature somewhere that isn't surrounded by concrete and steel.  Maybe they get a perverse kick out of performing a bodily function while other people are watching them.  But most likely, they pee in public because they just want to pee in public.

Public urination is such a problem in San Francisco that the police department has basically given up on handing out citations for the behavior.  That led to the application of "urine resistant paint" to many buildings where public pee-er's liked to do their dirty work.  The paint would actually make the urine spray back at the urinator--instead of down the wall.  But apparently that didn't do much to deter peeing in those spots.

So what do the "progressive thinkers" of San Fran decide to do to combat public urination?  They just accommodate those who refuse to comply with social mores and give them a public urinal.  Just like they accommodate intravenous drug users with free needles, middle school students who want to have sex with free condoms and abortions without parental consent and the refusal to turn over people in the country illegally to Immigration officials for deportation as required by Federal law.

The response from the San Francisco Parks Director perhaps summed up the situation perfectly when he said that with the park's popularity with topless women and its annual "Hunky Jesus" contest, the outdoor urinal was the "last thing" he expected a Christian group to sue about.  Just a word of advice the next time you visit the City By the Bay: Don't step in any of the puddles.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Good Riddance, Old Hickory

The most cantankerous, bitter and racist man to ever grace American currency is going away (sort of).  The Treasury announced yesterday that President Andrew Jackson will be replaced on the front of the $20 bill in 2020 by abolitionist Harriet Tubman.  That means that Alexander Hamilton--who developed the financial and economic system that made the US the most powerful country in the history of mankind will keep his place on the $10 bill. 

The Jackson and Tubman switch is ripe with ironies.  For starters, Jackson was an ardent supporter of slavery in the Southern States--backing a ban on any abolitionist bills from even being introduced in Congress during his term and fighting efforts to ban slavery in Washington, DC.  To have him replaced by an escaped slave who herself helped hundreds of others to escape must have him spinning in his grave.  Jackson was also the first Democratic President--while Tubman was a long time supporter of Republican Causes (which in a way makes a decision by the Obama Administration to dump him from the bill--instead of the Federalist Hamilton all the more curious).

I've never understood why Jackson was even on any currency--as he actively worked to destroy the US financial system while President.  When Congress renewed the charter for the Second Bank of the United States, Jackson acted unilaterally to withdraw all of the Treasury's funds from the bank--leaving it bankrupt.  He was censured by Congress for that move--but refused to return the money--instead putting it into banks owned by the States.  Jackson also hated paper currency--so he instituted a policy that all Federal Government land sales had to be conducted with gold or silver currency only.  That led to a run on banks--which did not have the hard currency on hand to meet the demand--and caused an economic depression starting in 1837.  If Jackson were around today, he would be a curious combination of Bernie Sanders and Ron Paul.

Jackson's greatest legacy is establishing the practice of the President openly defying the wishes of the other two branches of Government.  When the Supreme Court ordered Jackson to treat Indian Tribes in the Southeast as sovereign nations and stop relocating them to desolate Western areas--Jackson refused stating that Chief Justice John Marshall "Has made his decision, now let him enforce it"--while continuing to send thousands of Native Americans to their deaths.  He also established the spoils system in Washington--where it was no longer what you know but who you know that got you government jobs.  And he wanted to get rid of the Electoral College--because it cost him his first run at the Presidency to John Quincy Adams.

So all and all, we aren't losing much by bidding farewell to the "honor" bestowed upon the most over-rated President of all time.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

So Much For Wisconsin

Remember two weeks ago this morning, when Wisconsin was the talk of the nation?  Wisconsin voters had "all but assured the Republican Party of a brokered convention by handing Donald Trump a crushing defeat"--and giving Ted Cruz "all of the momentum heading into the spring primaries".  On the Democratic side Bernie Sanders was "going to continue an improbable comeback"--"winning six states in a row"--while Hillary Clinton's campaign was "dead in the water"--"unable to appeal to any young voters".

Let's take a look at those campaigns again this morning--after the far more diverse voters of New York state went to the polls.  Suddenly, Donald Trump has a "path to the nomination" again--and Ted Cruz has no momentum as the primaries shift to less evangelical states.  And Hillary Clinton adds to her elected delegates lead--while Sanders is left to wonder why he can't win states where people of color actually vote.

Because Wisconsin was a stand-alone primary--with a two-week gap between it and the previous election--we got an undeserved amount of attention--and an undeserved amount of "impact on the race".  Our demographics are skewed compared to the most-delegate-rich states.  In the grand scheme of things, the Cruz and Sanders wins here will be as inconsequential as their victories in Iowa now appear to be--four months later.

We didn't have a chance to "stop Trump".  There are too many bigger states with celebrity-obsessed voters who want the reality show presidency that he would deliver.  And not every state has a Dane County--where liberals with their love for theoretical economics and large groups of white, college kids who want free stuff--can carry Bernie Sanders to "surprising" victories.

Hopefully Wisconsin voters enjoyed the short-lived "power" over the Presidential races that we enjoyed for a couple of weeks.  If the polls show the possibility of a close race in the general election, someone might talk about us again come October.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

No Surprise Here

The next time you hear Bernie Sanders yelling about how people need to pay their fair share of taxes, keep in mind that he pays less in taxes than the average American.  The tax returns are out for almost all of the Presidential candidates and who do you think pays the least--by a considerable margin?

As you might expect, as a member of the 1% Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz are paying the highest effective tax rates--35.7% and 36.7% respectively.  Clinton manages to take an amazing 5-Million dollars in itemized deductions--while Cruz claims about 73-thousand.  John Kasich paid an effective tax rate of 18.5%--on income of 403-thousand.  That is still above the national average of 14.7%.

And then you have Senator Sanders who makes 205-thousand dollars a year--and claims more than 56-thousand dollars in itemized deductions (just 4% of that for charitable donations, by the way).  That works out to an effective tax rate of just 13.5%. 

You may be quick to point out that Sanders is a "humble public servant"--but so is John Kasich.  And the Kasichs give more to charity and paid 1/3 more in taxes.  And I also have to wonder why a 74-year old man has a mortgage that still sees him pay 23-thousand dollars in mortgage interest?  I realize he didn't have a full time job until he was 40--but that is still 34-years to build up more equity than that.

One return that is missing is that of Donald Trump.  That is likely due to the fact that such a release will burst the bubble of being a "billionaire"--and a "successful businessman"--and a "generous benefactor"--but that is a subject of another Two Cents another day.

Today, we just want to point out that it continues to be those that pay the least in taxes that are always demanding the rest of us pay more.

Monday, April 18, 2016

How To Quit a Job

There's quitting your job--and then there is REALLY quitting your job--as in making sure that everyone you are leaving behind knows how much you hated working with them.  Bill Johnson--the radio play-by-play man for UW-Milwaukee Basketball--REALLY quit his job last week.  And in doing so put the entire UWM Athletic Department Staff on "full roast".  Here is Johnson's resignation notice from his Instagram account:

To quote Groucho Marx “Hello, I must be going!”
Before the decision is made for me, I am officially announcing my retirement as the voice of Milwaukee Panthers Men’s basketball. I would say it’s taking the last life boat off the Titanic, but that would be unfair to the crew of the Titanic.
Never have so many competant [sic], talented people been run off by such a talentless group of entitled beaurocrats [sic]. No matter how much the coaches, players, and support staff care, they can’t overcome incompetent administrators.
UWM leads the world in incompetent administrators.
I criticize awful athletic directors like Koonce, Costello, Geiger, and Braun. It’s not their fault. Hell, if they elected me President I’ld take the job. If I suck at it, it’s not my fault. I’m not qualified to be President.
Should Amanda Braun turn down an AD job just because she’s horribly under qualified? Hell no. She’s a bad AD, and a deplorable human being, but those are the cards she’s been dealt.
Those in charge of the UW System have failed to hire effective administrators. Failed. F F F F!
It has been my pleasure to work with the wonderful players and coaches for 17 seasons. The players, coaches, parents and the fans have been like my family.
I will miss Panther hoops the rest of my life. Best of luck to my friends that are still imprisoned at UWM Athletics. Fight on, brothers (and sisters.) Keep your heads low and make us proud.
Finally, best of luck to LaVall Jordan, his staff, and the players. As so often happens in the NCAA, it’s not your fault. Win and get out quick, because long term is fatal at UWM Athletics.
Panther Nation, it has been my pleasure.Cheers!
UW-Milwaukee has been silent on Johnson's resignation so far.  It's entirely possible that Athletic Director Amanda Braun has never even spoken to him--just like she hardly ever spoke with former Men's Basketball Head Rob Jeter--even when she made the unilateral decision that a 20-win season didn't deserve any post-season tournament play--even though the Panthers were going to get an invite.  And maybe Braun was waiting for a text message from Johnson saying that he had quit--just like she sent a text message to the UWM players directing them to check their emails for the official statement from the Athletic Department announcing their coach had been fired.  No need to have messy face-to-face meeting with people to explain why such a major decision had been made.  Or maybe Braun was waiting for the Chancellor Mark Mone to over-rule Johnson's resignation--like he over-ruled Braun's first choice to replace Jeter--TJ Otzelberger (who is white)--and hire LaVall Jordan (who is African-American) because the University had been under fire for not having enough diversity in its Athletic Department.
Anyway, thanks, Bill Johnson for setting an impossibly high bar now to clear when it comes to telling off your bosses.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The WalMart-ization of America is Complete

The WalMart-ization of America is now complete.  A new survey finds two-thirds of us prefer low prices on the products we buy to having those goods produced here in the US.  It was that philosophy and selling point that allowed WalMart to become the retail giant that it is--giving the company the type of power that forced nearly all of its suppliers to shut down their US operations and conduct all production work in China or other countries.  If vendors couldn't meet the price points demanded by WalMart, they didn't get their products on the shelves.  And those shelves would be stocked with the leading competitor (or WalMart store brand) who would capture more market share.

And that is why when Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump talk about "bringing jobs back to America" you have to wonder "what jobs?".  We could restart all of the textile and manufacturing plants that have shut down over the past 40-years tomorrow and start cranking out "Made in the USA" goods 24-hours a day.  But if consumers go to the store and see the same product made overseas for two-thirds the price--they are still going to buy that one.  And then how do you continue to support the "jobs we brought back"?

Add to that the $15 an hour minimum wage that Bernie Sanders is pushing (and some states have already adopted) and how would a US manufacturer even come close to making the same things for competitive prices?  It's easy to say "I'll rip up all of our trade agreements and require sovereign foreign countries to pay their people more and charge more for energy and adopt the environmental standards that we demand"--but what do you do if those countries don't comply?  Are you going to block their products from coming in?  How long do you think it would take Apple to build an IPhone factory here in the US?  You think people are going to go that long without the opportunity to buy new smartphones?  Not to mention the millions of other products currently produced exclusively overseas.

The rebirth of American manufacturing is not going to come from re-negotiated treaties or threats to block imports into our country.  It will have to come from all of us--the consumers--to at some point say "I want to buy something that Joe Down The Street made--even if it's going to cost me a few bucks more".  Judging by the number of cars I see in the WalMart parking lot every day.  We still have a long way to go.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Capitalist Response to $15/Hour

While many of us roll our eyes at the thought of someone putting together 20-cents worth of hamburger ingredients making $15 an hour, there will be ways for the financially savvy to make more money themselves from the ultra-minimum wages being adopted by a growing number of states.  The key is to know where to invest.

As lottery winners who go broke prove, just because you give people more money, it doesn't mean they are automatically going to spend it wisely.  Those "feeling the Bern" would have you believe that all $15 earned every hour are going to pay for things like baby formula and organic, non-GMO locally-sourced, sustainable groceries packaged in Earth-friendly containers at farmers markets.  But human nature tells us that those getting a sudden boost in pay won't change their spending habits--they will just spend more on what they were buying already.

So where will that money go?  Here are some likely sources:
Tobacco companies.  The Centers for Disease Control finds the smoking rate among low-income Americans is 26.3%--the highest among any socio-economic group in the country.  That means those "struggling to make ends meet" still find a way to carve out enough in their budget to purchase one of the most heavily-taxed items sold in the US.  With less perceived financial strain, those smokers may buy a few extra cartons with the higher minimum wage.

Marijuana Dispenseries.  I'll admit that investing in this area is dicey--since the Federal Government still considers marijuana to be illegal and banks won't take any money from those businesses.  But where do you think most of the legalized pot dealers set up shop when the drug was legalized in Colorado?  In low-income and minority neighborhoods, of course.  In drug sales as in real estate, it's all about location, location, location.  And with more money for those already regular (non-addicted) customers to spend on getting high, those pot places are going to pop up in more spots than Starbucks in the upper and middle class white neighborhoods.

Brewers and Distillers.  Why do you think liquor stores and bars cash payroll checks?  Because they know a good percentage of that money is never leaving the building.  An added bonus is that those who could only "afford" the cheap stuff will "step up" to more premium brands--with much higher profit margins (do you really think it cost more to brew Budweiser than it does Busch Light?).  Boone's Farms may have to start marketing itself as a "Hipster Wine" to keep its market share up.

Tattoo Parlors.  Again, not an investment you'll be able to make with your broker--but the next time you are at the burger joint or the discount rate motel or at a bar, check out how much ink there is on the staff.

Big Banks.  This is not based upon a belief that these institutions will be flush with cash as those who have been "struggling to get by" race to deposit their new-found earnings in savings accounts for the future.  Instead, this is based on the explosion that will be seen in car loans and credit card debt.  The thing about increasing the minimum wage is that you don't get all of that "extra money" to buy all of the stuff listed above right away.  It comes a little bit at a time every two weeks.  But the first math equation that those getting such a raise usually figure out is how much they can now "afford" in payments to get what they want as soon as they want.

Yes, those of us already making a "living wage" can expect to pay $7 for a Big Mac someday--but we may just be able to cover that with the wise investments we made based on the foolish financial decisions of others.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Still the Best Candidate

So, House Speaker Paul Ryan has emphatically slammed the door on being a nominee for President at a brokered Republican convention this summer.  Ryan delivered an impassioned speech at a news conference in Washington yesterday, saying he didn't run for President this year for a reason, that he would not allow his name to even be put in for nomination and that only those who actually ran should be considered as nominees.

Then he delivered an equally impassioned speech about what the Republican party should be doing to win the upcoming election, how the GOP needs to offer better ideas for solving the country's problems and how effective he believes he can be in furthering that agenda.  It was the best Presidential stump speech anyone on the Republican side has delivered in the past year-and-a-half--and it showed exactly why Ryan should be the GOP nominee and why so many (like me) will not give up on that idea, no matter how many times he says he is not interested.

The simple fact that Ryan had to hold that press conference in the first place shows you how little Republicans think of their current candidates.  Not even Michael Dukakis had to deal with someone else overshadowing his failed nomination for President in 1988.  When I was talking with people about the Wisconsin primary, to a person they all said "Well yeah, I'd prefer Paul Ryan too--but he isn't running so ya just gotta vote for someone else".  That tells me the thought that all of the Donald Trump and Ted Cruz backers would abandon the party in the general election is without merit.

Besides, it's easy to stand in front of a bunch of reporters and TV cameras in a Capitol briefing room and say you have no interest in running.  But what happens when Ryan comes out as Chairman of the Convention in Cleveland for what is usually the ceremonial gavel pounding and he is met with an arena full of people chanting "We Want Paul?"  Or after a fifth or sixth ballot goes by without a nominee and delegates are beginning to turn on each other while the TV networks capture the chaos going on down on the floor--does he have such a strong aversion to running?  If for no other reason than to prevent the same sort of damage done to Democrats by the chaos at the 1968 convention in Chicago?

So until I see Donald Trump or Ted Cruz actually making a speech accepting the Republican Presidential nomination (likely to a chorus of boos) I'm keeping hope alive that the best candidate can still be drawn into the race.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Let the Nazis Rest

Godwin's Law holds that the longer an on-line discussion goes on, the greater the possibility that someone will make a comparison to Hitler or Naziism.  Apparently, Godwin's Law applies to Presidential campaigns as well.  I'm noticing more and more comparison to the Nazis as this eternal election cycle grinds along.  And like all of the on-line analogies, those drawn by the candidates are wrong as well--and render their arguments irrelevant.

"The first thing the Nazis did was take away everyone's guns".  Dr Ben Carson was the first to bring this one up this year.  The only problem is, when the Nazis came to power in Germany, there were very few guns to take away.  The Weimar Republic had very strict gun laws--and disarmament in the Treaty of Versailles left Germany almost gun-free.  It was the Nazis that actually relaxed gun laws and allowed private ownership again--although not for Jews and other "undesirable" populations.

"Donald Trump's deportation of illegal immigrants and call for special ID's for Muslims reeks of Naziism".  Bernie Sanders hinted at this one after the Donald started scoring points with both arguments.  The "special ID" proposal gets compared with the Nazi law that required Jews to wear a yellow Star of David on the outer layer of their clothing at all times in public--and that all Jewish-owned businesses have "Juden" painted on their front window or door.  As for the deportation of illegal immigrants to their countries of origin, that is a far cry from the deportations carried out by the Nazis--as legal citizens of a number of countries (including Germany) were sent to foreign countries they had never been in before.  And whereas illegals in the US would be returned to families and work opportunities--those put on the cattle cars in Nazi-controlled Europe were sent to ghettos--where they would likely starve to death--or to concentration camps--where they would be gassed immediately or worked to death.

"The Nazis were Socialists too, you know".  Opponents of Bernie Sanders like to toss this one around.  The only problem is, National Socialism (the formal name for Naziism) was less of an economic system and more of a racial purification system.  The goal was not to have everyone the same economically under government mandate and wealth redistribution policies--but rather to genetically be the same under government mandate and aforementioned deportation and killing policies.

"Ted Cruz is using 'Gestapo-like tactics' to win delegates".  Donald Trump tossed out this beauty on Sunday.  His argument is that through "back-room dealings" the delegates chosen to actually attend the GOP convention are Cruz supporters that will vote--as required--for Trump in the first nomination ballot--but then turn on him in subsequent ballots to give Cruz the win.  Now the Gestapo was a secret police force designed to spy on the German people themselves and to maintain "order" within the Reich.  Their usual modus operandi was arrest without a warrant or probable cause, blackmail and torture to get people to confess to anti-German activities--even if they were innocent.  So is Donald Trump saying that Republican Delegates are being tortured or threatened with imprisonment or death to support Ted Cruz?

What do you say we let the Nazis rest for the remainder of this Presidential election--or at least have a clue as to how evil they really were.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Man in the Arena

You know what is the greatest thing about sports?  There are both winners and losers.  And we can be proud of both of them.  We had another reminder of the cruelty of competition on Sunday as defending Masters champion Jordan Spieth came to the 12th hole in the famed "Amen Corner" at Augusta National Golf Club with a two shot lead.  For those who missed it (and under what rock do you live if you did?) Spieth put not one ball into Rae's Creek, but two--dropping out of the lead instantly--and digging such a deep deficit that he could not recover in his remaining holes.  It was a stunning turnaround for a young golfer that has really known only success in the past year and a half.

Of course, social media exploded--especially after the second water ball--with everyone's favorite term for someone who fails under pressure: "Choke".  Things got even uglier after Spieth sat through endless questions from the media after the round about how he could blow a 5-shot lead in just three holes--as some people started to point to his handling of a crushing defeat better than Cam Newton handled his Super Bowl loss earlier this year.  You can guess the tone that "discussion" took on quickly.

It's situations like this that I am reminded of Teddy Roosevelt's famous speech "The Man in the Arena":

I hope that Jordan Spieth can take some solace in those words (and in the $1.08 million dollars he got for still finishing second).  I hope that all of the young people for whom Spieth has become a sports hero realize that you need to fail (and sometimes fail spectacularly) to improve as both an athlete and as a person.  And I hope that Jordan is able to bounce back from this (I'd still make him a favorite for the US Open at Oakmont--just because it features the nastiest greens in the world) and show parents as well that you cannot be afraid to let your kids taste bitter defeat--so that they also learn to appreciate success.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Last of His Kind

You'd better sit down for this one....I found myself gaining a small amount of respect for former President Bill Clinton yesterday.  If you didn't see it, Clinton was campaigning on behalf of his wife in New York Thursday when a group of Black Lives Matter protesters started heckling him about signing criminal justice and welfare reform bills that they believe put too many African-Americans in prison and took too many Blacks off the dole.

Clinton proceeded to put the protesters in their place reminding them that in the 90's urban areas were drugged-up killing fields and that Black poverty rates actually fell during his administration as welfare-to-work requirements went into effect.  After seeing video of the nearly 15-minute exchange (which I'm sure horrified Hillary campaign handlers) I realized that Bill Clinton will probably be the last Democrat to expect some form of personal accountability and responsibility from Americans.

You never heard Clinton use President Obama's favorite phrase "through no fault of their own" to create new groups of "victims".  He never proposed legalizing harmful drugs or practices just because "too many of a certain kind of people" were being imprisoned for repeatedly violating the existing laws.  He certainly didn't propose making things free just because enough people complained about having to pay for them.

The Democrats who have followed Bill Clinton are now returning those drug-pushers and violent offenders to the neighborhoods they used to terrorize.  And some think just giving them free college tuition will make all of their problems go away (along with free treatment of their gunshot and stab wounds).  All the while, entitlement and public assistance programs have been greatly expanded--putting more people under the control of the Government.

Yesterday's nasty little exchange shows the ever-widening gap that exists within the Democratic party as the aging Baby Boomers are challenged by the Entitlement Generation for control.  When the "establishment" Super-delegates provide Hillary Clinton with the nomination at the party convention this summer, there is no way that she gets the Bernie Sanders supporters behind her for the general election.  She made the mistake of once demanding accountability and responsibility from people--and they now expect to do whatever they want without reproach or punishment--while someone else picks up the tab.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Freudian Slip

Congressman Glenn Grothman has certainly stepped in it with his comments about voter identification laws.  In case you missed it, Grothman was asked how Ted Cruz might beat Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin come November if the two are the are the nominees.  Here's his response:

Grothman has since doubled down on those comments saying yesterday that basically, he thinks Democrats cheat to win elections:

The Democrats are pouncing all over this, with press releases claiming that Grothman executed a Freudian slip and let out the "fact" that Republicans passed Voter ID just to suppress Democratic turnout (because only Democrats can't get photo id's).
Personally, I support voter ID because I want my vote protected.  The good news is that we are four months away from the August primary--so you have plenty of time to get a photo ID if you need one.  Only planning to vote in the November Presidential Election?  Even better--you have seven months to get your FREE id.  Too busy to get to the polls on election day itself?  You have two whole weeks before then to vote in person--or you can even have a ballot mailed to you by your local clerk--postage paid.
Unfortunately, Grothman's comments aren't the only things from Tuesday's vote that make you slap your head.  In Brown County, a group of 17-year olds convinced poll workers to let them vote.  Congressman Grothman would be relieved to know that the kids did show proper photo ID and their school report cards as proof of residency.  We'll just deduct a few votes from Bernie Sanders total to make up for that.
And then in Beaver Dam, as many as 500-voters may have been given the wrong ballots as a confused poll worker didn't understand why the sheets were different colors.  He or she believed the color was based on whether a person was already in the poll book--when it actually was color-coded by district. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

There's Got To Be a Morning After

So what did we learn last night?

  • The school funding process is working as it should.  Districts (like Oshkosh) where people want to spend more on public schools are going to the polls to make that happen.  Districts where people don't want to spend more are going to the polls to make that happen as well.  Everyone should feel better about that than having a handful of School Board members stuff higher spending down our throats every year.

  • Kyle Clark may want to consider just being an "interim" Common Council member from now on.  Twice Clark has been appointed to fill out a term on the Council and twice he has been voted off the Council in the very next election.  That despite making some comment on every single item the Council has voted on during both terms.  Just keep the application handy, Kyle and we'll call you when we need a warm body to fill that seat for a few months.

  • Tim Hanna should have his title changed from Mayor of Appleton to King of Appleton.

  • All of those voters fired up to nominate Bernie Sanders yesterday weren't that interested in the rest of the ballot.  The drop off in terms of votes for the Democratic Presidential primary and the votes that Joanne Kloppenberg got was greater than the drop off Rebecca Bradley saw from votes in the Republican Presidential Primary.  Apparently those kids weren't "feeling the Klop".

  • 2,261 other people joined me in voting for an "Uninstructed" slate of delegates on the Republican side yesterday.  We an all rest easy knowing that we never voted for any of the clowns on the ballot this year--and that there is still hope for Paul Ryan to win the nomination in the brokered GOP convention that is all but assured now.

  • Finally, Ted Cruz had better not rely on his newfound "supporters" to stick with him now that he has accomplished his job of blocking Donald Trump from getting to the magic delegate number.  CNN exit polling showed that a full 1/3 of those who said they voted for Cruz yesterday would NOT vote for him in the general election.  Things were even worse for Donald Trump, as nearly 40% will bail on him come November.  It seems to me the one message that Republican voters sent last night is "none of the above" is still our best option until Cleveland.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

We've Only Just Begun

The two weeks of hype and hysteria end today, as Wisconsin holds its presidential primary.  Say goodbye to the candidates criss-crossing the state on a daily basis.  Don't check your local listings for news network town halls from Milwaukee or Green Bay anymore.  Clear your calendar of further protests or rallies.  After today, Wisconsin will be an after-thought among those in the national political arena.  By 9:00 tomorrow morning the only thing that will matter is New York--the next delegate-rich primary state--and those of us left behind will finally get to relax....for a little bit anyway.

Consider that we are still SEVEN MONTHS AWAY from the Presidential election.  Everything you experienced the past two weeks is just a preview of what we can expect if polls show Wisconsin is even remotely up for grabs in the general election.  The rallies will be bigger.  The protests will be angrier.  The celebrity endorsers will be "celebritier" (By the way, nice job by Tim Robbins yesterday in further alienating African-Americans from the Bernie Sanders campaign by saying that Hillary Clinton's black-vote-fueled win in South Carolina was like "winning Guam").  And the radio and TV ads will be nastier.

As the circus caravan rides out of town today, I'd like to salute the people who probably endure the greatest hardship in this process: the national reporters and photo-journalists who are "embedded" with these campaigns.  If you attended the multiple Ted Cruz or Bernie Sanders appearances in the Fox Valley the past two weeks you noticed that these candidates have a "stump speech"--from which they hardly ever stray.  Now imagine having to hear that same speech three or four times a day every day since just after Christmas.  That's why, those who follow these campaigns can be seen in the press area checking out their phones or perusing the internet on their laptop computers for nearly the entire speech--half-listening in case of a major gaffe that might actually be news-worthy.  I listened to three Sanders speeches and two from Cruz and I can pretty much recite them verbatim already.

There was one moment from the past two weeks that I did enjoy.  In introducing former President Bill Clinton at his appearance in Appleton last week, Senator Al Franken returned to his comedian roots and gave the possible "First Man" a little ribbing.  Franken claimed that Hillary is definitely smarter than Bill, works harder than Bill and could be considered more qualified for any job than Bill.  All he needed was to throw in a few one-liners about cigars and a blue dress and Al could have been slaying it at the local comedy club.  It was a nice reminder that despite all the attention they get, the people who have dominated the news the past two weeks really aren't that better than the rest of us.

So here's to our respite from Big Time Politics.  Enjoy it while you can.

Monday, April 4, 2016

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Soundbites

I was going to make my annual Opening Day predictions about the upcoming baseball season this morning--but then I saw a picture posted by one of the reporters covering the Presidential candidates in Wisconsin this weekend.  It was of the turnout at a Bernie Sanders town hall meeting with African-American leaders in Milwaukee:

To say that a "couple dozen people" turned out for the event would be generous. The picture shows what has been a continuing concern among Sanders supporters--his inability to draw support among minority voters.

To the average Sanders supporter the appeal seems natural.  Bernie promises free college tuition, $15 an hour minimum wage, legalized marijuana use, not locking up drug dealers, free health care and a multitude of other government programs and subsidies.  In their minds, what is there not for African-Americans to like about that platform?

I would like to think that African-Americans want to be more than just "wards of the state".  That they want more from life than to have the Government hand them everything they need.  That they would like the same opportunity to earn things that people of other races can go out and get on their own.  That they don't want their "career" to be the minimum wage jobs only available in their neighborhoods--even if that is a "living wage".

I would also think that minorities have to be a bit insulted by the demands of middle class white kids for free college tuition or academics and celebrities demanding free health care for themselves when they have the means and the opportunity to pay for those things already.  And what good is the offer of a free college education to a community that sees 50% of its kids fail to graduate high school?  And maybe they don't want legal pot use or to have the guys selling drugs in their neighborhoods returned sooner--or not removed at all.

Of course, African-Americans in Milwaukee don't need Bernie Sanders to turn their lives around.  They have Mayor Tom Barrett--a lifelong Democrat--building a streetcar line!  It will never travel into their neighborhoods--but it will bring the upscale, white people attending the Bernie Sanders rallies to downtown Milwaukee!  And with them will come jobs that African-Americans without college educations will not be qualified for--and increased rents on what decent housing is available as those new-age Yuppies look for the "cool new area" of Milwaukee.

In the meantime, the African-Americans of the inner cities will provide luke-warm support to Hillary Clinton--whose husband signed the laws that put so many of their men in prison for years, and whose husband signed the trade deals that sent the manufacturing jobs so common to our cities for decades to other countries.  Hardly a win-win situation for those folks.

Friday, April 1, 2016

There Is An Alternative!

Because Election Day is going to be extra hectic for me next week, I went down to Oshkosh City Hall yesterday to cast an absentee ballot.  I realized a couple of things at the little privacy booth: 1--There were a lot of people I forgot were once running in the Republican race for President.  And 2--There is a viable alternative to voting for any of the three clowns still in that race.

What gets lost in all of the candidate appearances and the attack ads on the radio and the TV is that we aren't actually electing Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton to anything in this primary.  We are instead voting for a slate of delegates that will attend each party's respective convention this summer.  Under the GOP's bylaws, those delegates are required to vote for the candidate that won their state in at least one round of the nominating process.

But if you scan down past the dozen or so names under the Republican header, you find a space where you can vote for an "Uncommitted" slate of delegates.  And here is where Wisconsin voters can both send a message and start a trend that will send the Republican Party in the direction of a nominee that would actually have a chance to win in November.

By sending an entire delegation of uncommitted representatives to Cleveland, Wisconsin would make it clear that we are not happy with the choices presented to us--and we want something completely different.  And let's be honest, there is going to be an open convention, as the remaining states will be divided between Trump and Cruz and neither will come to Cleveland with enough delegates to win the nomination.  With Kasich promising to retain all of his delegates--and Marco Rubio begging the GOP officials to let him keep his--that first round of voting is going to be an embarrassing mess.  So why not just send Wisconsin's delegation down there as free agents--beholden to no one?

And when you consider that one of our favorite sons would make the perfect convention candidate, it wouldn't hurt to have 42 or so delegates ready to either make the Paul Ryan nomination--or jump on the bandwagon immediately.  It's not quite "None of the Above"--but it's still the best choice.