Thursday, July 21, 2016

Quick Hits

There are just too many topics to cover before we break for EAA Airventure, so let's just do a series of quick hits today:
  • Don't expect Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson to get Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna's endorsement in his race for Congress this fall.  Hanna didn't call out Nelson by name yesterday in voicing his frustration with the County's use of eminent domain to take property away from a potential private developer and use it instead for a Sheriff's Department patrol office.  Although it was nice to see a proponent of more Big Government control and restrictions "victimized" by a believer in even Bigger Government  wielding what he believes to be his powers.

  • It used to be that if you called police and claimed crimes were happening that didn't--you would get arrested.  Now thanks to social media, law enforcement is forced to go on wild goose chases because something goes viral on the internet.  The latest is the "Found Ring/Attempted Abduction/Sex Trafficking Threat" that circulated in the Fox Valley this week.  The post claimed a woman found a ring on her windshield and that while trying to figure out what was going on, a mysterious SUV pulled up and people tried to kidnap her.  The more the post was shared, the "more concerned" residents became--and they wanted the Police to investigate.  Here's something to keep in mind when you read those posts: An incident like that would show up on a police report and in the local media.  If we didn't say it happened, it likely didn't happen.

  • What is it about the phrase "vote your conscience" that gets Donald Trump supporters so riled up?  Ted Cruz used the phrase in his speech last night and was booed off the stage by the "Make America Great Again" sign wavers at the Republican National Convention.  Speaker Paul Ryan was criticized by the Trump campaign for giving the same advice to delegates before the convention.  Do those enjoying the clown show that is this campaign fear those with the slightest bit of political knowledge or personal principles will go Libertarian this year--or just stay home?  As one Trump supporter around here told me a few days ago "What is this 'vote on principles' b@^^*#%t that everyone is talking about?"

  • Speaking of Libertarians, could you do me a favor and if you are ever called by a Presidential polling service, could you say that you are voting for Gary Johnson?  I don't want to provide false information to pollsters--but I do want to see a Libertarian on the stage for the Presidential Debates--and that spot is decided solely on public opinion polls (and not the ones that the marketing arm of Donald Trump's campaign make up and he retweets like they are some sort of trusted source).  I think it would be a real eye opener for Americans to hear that party's platform (so long as the topic of legalizing all drugs doesn't come up and send people running back to the two no-so-different this year candidates.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Right to Die

First off, let me give a shout out to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.  In a press release claiming chaos at the Republican National Convention, the DPW cited the My Two Cents blog and my piece this week on the confusion that delegates and attendees must feel with Donald Trump winning the nomination.  Glad to know everyone is Madison is keeping an eye on what I have to say.  Now on to today's regularly scheduled topic.

Some of you are disturbed by the story this week about an Appleton girl who has made the decision to die.  The 16-year old suffers from a debilitating muscle and spinal condition that leaves her wheelchair-bound and in a great deal of pain.  Because of that, she has decided to forego the use of a ventilator to provide her with enough oxygen to live.  The comment sections of on-line versions of the story include suggestions that she and her family instead "pray for a miracle", "let God decide when it is her time" and to "wait to see if there is a cure someday".

For a society with a "death culture" that spends billions of dollars a year on funerals, elaborate grave markers, maintaining cemeteries and building memorials to people who have died, we sure have a problem with people who try to control their own deaths.  The idea of not being able to choose the time, place and manner of your passing is largely a religious construct.  After creating the idea of "Heaven"--where everything is perfect for eternity--early church leaders realized that people living a difficult, subsistence lifestyle under the punishing control of the Church itself might want to punch their ticket early and enjoy "their eternal reward".  So they tossed in a provision that those who take their own lives wouldn't get into Heaven. 

Those who think that this girl is too young to decide that she doesn't want to live anymore--or who think that she should instead continue to endure great pain and less and less of a life outside of her bed because of some "devine will" are incredibly misguided.  We live our lives for ourselves--not for religious beliefs and not for "those we leave behind".  This girl's decision to control her own fate is certainly more acceptable than getting hit by a drunk driver or getting run over or blown up by someone whose religion tells him that taking a few hundred people with him just increases his reward in the afterlife.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Love is NOT All You Need

My eyes are getting sore and losing focus from all the times I've rolled them hard while someone says "We need to love each other more" in the wake of another violence or terrorism incident.  President Obama has said it.  Hillary Clinton has said it.  Mayors of cities that have seen attacks have said it.  Members of Black Lives Matter have said it.  And every time I hear it I wonder if I've been magically transported back to 1967 and the Summer of Love.

Here is the list of things that I love: My wife, my family, sports, steak and Jeep Wranglers.  That's it--that's the list.

I don't love the people living in the house three blocks over--and yet, I am able to not break in and steal their stuff so I can pawn it to buy drugs.  I don't love police officers--and yet I am able to not take off running when they show up or try to fight and disarm them.  I don't love the French, but I am able to not take a semi and run over hundreds of them as they watch a fireworks show.

We don't need "more love" to solve our problems.  In fact, I would say that we have too much love nowadays.  Like the love of drugs so strong that some people are willing to steal from their own parents to buy them.  Or a love of authority so great that personal pleasure is derived from making people's lives miserable by harassing them.  Or a love of religion so deeply-rooted that some folks are more than willing to kill a whole lot of people in the name of it.

What we need is more RESPECT for the lives of others and the laws of our lands.  I don't steal, fight or kill because it is illegal--and other people have a right not to be victimized by me.  It's when the rights of those people are chipped away--and we are told that the laws of the land are not fair and can be ignored in the name of "social justice" that we develop the culture that concerns us now.

I know why liberals like to preach "love" as the cure-all.  It's a communal concept.  "We all love each other!".  And failure to love doesn't carry any formal punishment or even deterrence.  Meanwhile respect is almost authoritarian in its nature: "You will respect my authority" or "You're gonna have to earn my respect".  And those who fail to respect the law go to jail or prison.

With all apologies to John Lennon and Paul McCartney, love is NOT all you need.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Confusion Convention

For those tuning into the Republican National Convention this week expecting to see chaos as last-ditch efforts to usurp the presidential nomination from Donald Trump clash with his hot-headed supporters, you will probably be disappointed.  You will have to be satisfied with every small protest group in the country "clashing with police" outside the convention--as everyone knows the way to get national attention is to just "clash with the police"--even if its just six of you and two cops--just make sure you get on camera because they will be out there looking hard for "clashes with police".

What you will find if you tune into convention coverage is a lot of confusion.  A lot of people will be inside Quicken Loans Arena wondering "How did we get to this point?"  And "how did a guy that's not even a Republican get nominated as our party's candidate for President?" 

That confusion will extend to those who bother to watch more of the convention than just the Donald Trump speech on Thursday night.  For several nights, Americans will hear from Republicans that have clear plans for increasing economic opportunity for all people in the private sector, the defense of constitutional rights, attainable immigration controls and strategies to combat Islamic Terrorism.  And then on that final night, Donald Trump will get a national stage and mention none of those plans, offer no details on his own proposals and seek to alienate as many people as possible from actually voting for him or anyone actually affiliated with the party in November--and possibly for the rest of their lives (although, Americans have a ten second attention span and even shorter memories--so maybe they will have forgotten everything Trump said by the 2018 mid-term elections).

Since confusion will reign in Cleveland anyway, the GOP may as well pretend like the 2016 Presidential election isn't even happening--and start a focus on 2018 and 2020.  Talk about what can be accomplished in the next two years--even under a "worst case scenario Presidency" (which would be either of the candidates winning) and start touting 2020 White House hopefuls.  (Remember, Bill Clinton was the star of the 1988 Democratic National Convention with his long-winded speech that drew jokes from the late night comedians and launched him into the public eye--as opposed to the moribund Michael Dukakis--who was the actual nominee that year.)

I've said from the beginning that the Donald Trump campaign has been nothing more than a TV reality show--with the same audience loving every minute of it.  And this week's convention will likely be the high point of the "show" (they even have a guest appearance by Scott Baio!!)  But if you are tuning in expecting the catfights and fake hair pulling of the "Real Housewives" variety--you will instead have to settle for the confusion of Ozzy in the "The Osbournes".

Friday, July 15, 2016

Who Will Lead the Way?

In the current vacuum of leadership in the fight against Islamic Terrorism, who will step up to lead the fight?  With US President Barack Obama refusing to even identify the enemy and the source of the terror threat, it may be up to our European allies to pick up the flag and engage those who wish to kill us. 

Europe is the new front line in the war on terror, with attacks in France, Belgium and England in the past few years.  And those countries may be better equipped to take on Islamic Terror than we are here in the US.  There is no First Amendment right to the practice of religion across most of the Continent.  Yes, they have agreements in place to allow all faiths--but those are not written into each individual country's constitution.

Europe also remains very homogenous.  Most Belgians and French and Brits and Germans have shared heritages--and that makes coming together to fight an enemy much easier.  There is less of a sense of "tolerance" to extremist religious views--especially from "those who just showed up". 

It is now obvious that the effort to defeat Islamic Terror will not be pleasant and will make us question our own values--but those in Europe seem more willing and able to take on that fight than we are over here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Living in a Post-Respect World

Remember when you were a kid and you were playing ball in the back yard and someone would hit or throw it over the fence into the neighbor's yard?  Someone had to make the "walk of shame" over to the neighbor's house--ring the doorbell--and sheepishly ask permission to get the ball back.  We didn't just go climbing over the fence or open the gate on our own because we were taught to have respect for other people's property and privacy.

Obviously, that respect is not taught to anyone today.  Why else would police departments around the country have to issue repeated request to people playing "Pokémon Go" to not trespass on private property.  At least those of us who needed to get into the neighbor's yard as kids to retrieve a ball were actually getting a real object back--not a pretend animated character on a mobile phone.  Yet, Pokémon players are actually using that excuse to go into people's yards, to hang out around businesses after closing and to go running around in parks after curfew.

I was debating whether or not to even comment on this.  The Pokémon fad is like a Hillary Clinton ethics scandal or a Donald Trump inappropriate comment--there's another one coming next week, so why get worked up about this one?  But then I saw on Twitter that both the National Holocaust Museum and Arlington National Cemetary had to issue statements telling people playing Pokémon Go to stay away.

What person in their right mind thinks that these are proper venues to play games?  There are even screen captures on-line showing people "catching" a Pokémon superimposed over photos of those imprisoned within the death camps!  Never has there been a greater metaphor for the misplaced values of our society than that.

And imagine you are a family of a soldier killed in action visiting your son or daughter's gravesite at Arlington National and groups of people are running through the rows of markers yelling "There's one over here!! There's one over here!!"  Or taking selfies with their "captured Pokémon" in front of John Kennedy's grave and the eternal flame.  Or crossing the rail at the Tomb of the Unknowns so they can "catch them all".

There are parents who say Pokémon Go are getting their kids out of the house more than anything ever has.  And tourism officials think the game will get people to check out new places they never would have considered visiting before.  But my god people, learn some respect before thinking you have a right to go wherever you want to catch cartoons.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Just Make Up Your Own Rules

It's too bad that time and resources preclude everyone in America spending a day with a law enforcement officer at least once in their lives.  We see a lot of law enforcement "experts" marching in the streets today--or appearing on the news networks--demanding a complete overhaul of the way we police ourselves.

It would be interesting to see what decisions some of those protesters would make when faced with the same situations officers run into on a daily basis.  Would they chase after the person that just stole a couple hundred dollars worth of items from a convenience store?  Or would they just tell the store owner "Sorry, chasing after that guy would just 'escalate' the situation--so you'll just have to take the loss."  Would they allow a car without its headlights on or no taillights to continue driving around city streets in the dark because such a "minor offense" doesn't need to lead to something like a drug or weapons bust or the arrest of someone wanted on a felony warrant? 

One phrase that gets tossed around a lot is "community control of policing".  "We want a say in how we are policed" is the new mantra.  But how does one with no background in the law or police techniques develop an effective means of law enforcement.  If ten people in my neighborhood don't want cars driving slowly past our houses at night checked out--but three of us do consider that activity suspicious who is right?  And can a "community" decide that it no longer wants drug possession or use crimes prosecuted--while other "communities" can?

Imagine a city where police techniques and law enforcement are done on a "community based" basis.  Officers would have to know in which neighborhoods pursuit of suspects and confrontation with suspicious actors is "acceptable"--and where such activities will not be "accepted" by the residents.  What if a pursuit spills over into a different "community" where the standards are not the same as where a crime or a violation takes place?  And who will accept the blame when such efforts to change law enforcement fail to improve public safety?

While we may not be able to give everyone a ride-along, maybe those who yell the loudest and post the most on social media can set aside a few days and nights to see what it's really like out there.  Maybe stand next to an officer during a high-risk traffic stop, or respond to a robbery complaint or break up a fight--and then come back with some informed opinions.

Monday, July 11, 2016


My wife recently purchased one of those vehicles with a "Collision Alert System".  When a vehicle is too close to the front of the car, a red light comes on the dash and there is a beeping tone to "warn you" a collision is imminent.  It also has a "Lane Deviation" feature that beeps at you when you cross over a line along the roadway and your turn signal isn't on--as the vehicle thinks that you may not have noticed that you are leaving your lane.

In the couple of times I've driven the car, that thing has been beeping almost constantly--especially on Interstate 41.  It's not so much that I'm out there tailgating everybody--but rather the on-board computers seem to have a different definition of "safe distance" than pretty much everyone else on the road.  We can be driving with the cruise on at 73-miles an hour and a car switches lanes in front of us to pass another vehicle on the left and all of sudden the car is beeping all over the place and red lights are coming on and yet, there is no greater threat for a collision than there was 10-second before.  Or, we're all alone on the interstate and I slide over the right hand lane and the car is beeping all over the place because my turn signal wasn't activated and that represents a "danger" to the car that is at least a quarter mile behind me in that lane.

Personally, I hate "Collision Alert Systems" and "Automatic Braking Systems" and any other system that "monitors the road to keep you safe".  First, they are unnecessary, because most crashes can be avoided by simply paying attention to what is going on around you.  But in today's "Always on our smartphone or playing with the in-dash internet system or even watching DVD's on a player in our laps" society, we can't pay attention to just one thing at a time.  So we apparently need our cars to monitor what's going on on the road.

Secondly, these systems become a crutch for drivers.  "The car will let me know when I'm getting too close" or "If I drift out of the lane while checking my Twitter feed, the car will beep and let me know to get back in line".  These systems are in the same vehicle that I have to press the key fob button three times to get the doors to unlock from three feet away when it is stopped in a parking lot--and yet, they are expecting the "alert systems" to work flawlessly while the car is moving at 70-miles an hour and other vehicles are approaching and moving away in a 360-degree sphere.

Rather than stuff more technology into our cars to first distract us--and then warn us when we are distracted--under the guise of being "Smart Vehicles, let's "dumb down" our cars with less technology and turn them back into what they are meant to be: machines to transport us from Point A to Point B quickly, efficiently and out of the elements.  We can call them "Smart Driver Vehicles".

Friday, July 8, 2016

Who Leads Us Out of This?

Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse, the events of this week bring us to a new level of danger in America.  Two more police shootings involving African-American men followed by snipers opening fire on Dallas police during a Black Lives Matter rally overnight have ratcheted up the tension to a 1968-type scenario.  And just like in '68, there is a vacuum of leadership that could make it even worse.

Honestly, who right now could step up and call for an end to this cycle and have all of the parties involved--and every citizen--say to themselves "Wow, we need to heed this person's clarion call!"?  Who would not be accused of just "fanning the flames"?  Who would not be criticized for "not caring until it was white police officers killed"?  Who would not be called a "racist" or a "reverse racist"?  Who would not be accused of "trying to take guns away from law-abiding citizens" or "ignoring the epidemic of gun violence in this country"?

Who would be afforded the opportunity to calmly discuss possible solutions to our deep divides on all of the cable news channels?  Whose answers would not have every phrase parsed, scrutinized and taken out of context every hour on the hour by a myriad of "reporters" claiming to know "what they really meant"?  Who would get the talk show hosts to admit to being wrong or to being too reactionary or off base with their assertions?

One would like to think the President could be that person--but that ship sailed years ago.  Those running to replace him certainly aren't the ones to do it.  Who doesn't have "inflammatory" blog posts on the internet or tweets to come back and haunt them?  Who isn't already carrying labels or party affiliations?  Who doesn't have campaign contributions from the 'wrong people"--or backed those who are now "part of the problem"?

So who is the person to bring us back together again and move us toward solutions?  And would we listen to that person anyway?

Thursday, July 7, 2016

What Difference Does It Make At This Point?

After two days of listening to regular folks and talking heads argue about "how much the FBI email investigation will hurt Hillary Clinton?" and "how much will the Star of David tweet controversy hurt Donald Trump?" I think we can definitively answer both questions with "not at all".  And you know why neither candidate will be hurt by these or practically any other controversy that is created between now and the election?  Because the battle lines have already been drawn--and no one is moving off their position.

The single-issue focus that American politics has devolved into means the average voter will continue to support the candidate that promises to deliver on the one and only thing that matters to him or her.

Hillary Clinton showed gross negligence in having classified national security information sent to her private email account on an unsecured server so she could forward them along to her political consultants to determine the "course of action that would best suit her 2016 Presidential aspirations"?  What difference does it make at this point? She is going to keep ObamaCare in place so I can get my government-subsidized health insurance and that's all I care about!

Donald Trump calls an American-born judge a "Mexican" because he rules against him in a civil lawsuit involving the ripoff that was "Trump University"?  Who cares?! He's going to get rid of all the illegal immigrants and that's all I care about!

Clinton spends her entire married life discrediting women who accused her husband of rape and sexual harassment?   What difference does it make at this point? She is going expand access to abortionand that's all I care about !

Trump backtracks from a ban on Muslims and making them register with the government and banning travelers from any "terrorist country"--which he is unable to specifically give an examples of?  Who cares?! He calls it Islamic terrorism--unlike the President and that's all I care about!

Hillary won't discuss the topics of her multi-million dollar speeches to Wall Street executives?  What difference does it make at this point? She is going to now make those same people "pay their fair share"--just like Bernie Sanders said he would and that's all I care about!

Trump can't explain his stance on the Brexit vote two weeks before the referendum and then promotes the passing as good for his golf courses because it will depress the Pound and make playing there cheaper for Americans?  Who cares? He is going to repeal NAFTA and all of the other trade agreements and that's all I care about!

So if you are one of those who have drawn you line in the sand--and then buried your head in it--because you don't care about the totality of "your candidate", enjoy your summer of ignoring the total lack of character, honesty and integrity embodied by the two "frontrunners" in this race.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The New Media Run Amok

If I had a dollar for every article, feature, blog post and podcast I've seen or heard about how the "New Media" is going to put the "Traditional Media" out of business soon, I'd still be in bed in my retirement home in Kapalua, Maui right now instead of doing this My Two Cents.  "Citizen Journalists" are going to provide all the news you need instantly, without filters or biases, and all for free--courtesy of all the social media platforms available today and being added every day.  But the biggest problem with "citizen journalism" was on display during yesterday's gruesome crash along Interstate 41 in Fond du Lac.

Sheriff's Captain Rick Olig was so put off by what he saw happening around the crash site yesterday that he was compelled to take to Facebook last night to express his disgust:

Now, when those of us in the "stuffy, Traditional Media" arrive on the scene of such an incident, we park away and set up a respectful distance from the site--in part because we know that first responders need to be able to do their jobs--and secondly, because we don't want to get hit by all of the other distracted people passing by.  In fact, those out at such a scene where traffic is present are now required to wear high-visibility vests--just like those worn by the responders themselves or highway construction crews.  A few too many close calls over the years.  Also, we wouldn't think about bringing our children to see a fatal crash--especially one that involved crushing injuries and fire--even if it was Bring Your Kids to Work Day.

Thanks to Captain Olig for wrapping up by encouraging people to still get their news from the "Old Media".  It proves that we still have plenty of viability--well as long as we continue to have a small amount of humanity and respect for each other that is.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

We Can Still Do Great Things

While we may not be able to keep Islamic terrorists from blowing us up or shooting us.  And while we can't find two decent, honest and honorable people to elect as President out of a population of 350-million.  And despite our inability drive at constant speeds on road leading to and from Northwoods destinations, we as Americans are still capable of doing some pretty amazing things.

Take for instance the successful deployment of the Juno spacecraft into orbit around Jupiter overnight.  While you were passed out from day-drinking all 4th of July--or were trying to set off an entire package of illegal fireworks in your backyard all at once--the folks at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory were sending complex computer commands to an object 365-million miles away.  The 7 button on my remote control sometimes doesn't work just eight feet away from the cable box.  And remember that Jupiter is a moving target--traveling through space at more than 29-thousand miles an hour.

When Juno was launched in August of 2011, engineers had to calculate where Jupiter would be on July 4th of 2016--and correctly estimate the average speed of the spacecraft itself to get to that same spot at the correct time.  If they had missed by as little as 1/100th of a percent, Juno would have missed the target and just floated off into the cosmos.  I doubt those working on those equations used "ten is your friend" math to make their computations.

And Jupiter is massive--second only to the Sun in terms of size in the solar system--and it has a huge gravitational pull--two and a half times that of Earth--so there was a very good chance that had Juno been a little late in firing its retro rockets last night, it would have been pulled toward the planet and crushed.  But everything went perfectly--and the little craft will spend the next month orbiting the plant, providing us with insight into the formation of the universe.

So don't let the constant stream of terror attacks, criminal investigations into candidates, the buffoonery before the cameras of other candidates or someone slowing down to see if every side street is the one they need to turn down to get back to the resort get you down.  We can still accomplish great things here in America.

Friday, July 1, 2016

They Just Can't Help Themselves

You have to wonder if the Clintons are completely tone-deaf to their public perception--or they just can't help themselves when it comes to giving the appearance of being shiftless political manipulators.  This week, Attorney General Loretta Lynch admitted to a private meeting with Former President Bill Clinton at the airport in Phoenix.  The meeting came just a few days before a Congressional report on Hillary Clinton's actions (or lack thereof) pertaining to the Islamic terrorist attacks on the Benghazi consulate.   It also comes as the FBI and the Department of Justice are investigating Mrs Clinton's use of a private email server for classified State Department information.

Lynch insists the two just happened to run into each other at the airport and that they only talked about grand-children and golf.  But even if these were the topics of conversation, if either of you know how such a meeting would appear to the public if it is discovered (and of course, it was) you would just exchange pleasantries briefly in full view of everyone in the terminal and head your separate ways--not sit together on one of your private jets turning the meeting from a "chance encounter at the airport" into a "secret meeting".

Like he has done with pretty much everything in his life, Bill Clinton probably thought he was going to get away with it--without any repercussions.  I can picture him calling Hillary on his cellphone right after the meeting:

"Hey Hill, guess who I just happened to run into at the airport?"

"Who, Bill?"

"Attorney General Loretta Lynch!  We had a real nice chat"

"What did she say about the email server and Benghazi?  Is she still 'taking care of it'?"

All of this comes as Mrs Clinton herself is beginning to address the astounding lack of trust American voters have in her.  She told supporters in Chicago this week that "she has work to do on this front" and then in the same week, news comes out about the "happenstance meeting" between her husband and the woman heading up the department investigating her.  If that is "working on it", I'd hate to see what "ignoring the issue" looks like.  But like I said, I honestly believe the Clintons just can't help themselves.