Wednesday, August 31, 2016

What He Meant To Say....I Think

One of the more entertaining aspects of the Presidential campaign so far has been watching the "surrogates" for Donald Trump try to explain what the GOP nominee's platform is.  Usually, lower-level politicians like that are provided with key talking points--and a few significant numbers--to memorize and provide in answers to all questions.  But because the Trump campaign is distressingly short on facts and details, these poor people (many of them related to Trump himself) are left to fumble through interviews and try to avoid directly answering anything (other than to say that "Hillary is crooked" and "He'll make American great again").

It's one thing when the candidate himself gets on stage and says "I have a plan.  It is a very great plan.  It will be a successful plan and I will fix that."  That's just ego-mania--and it's what we've come to expect from the Trumpster.  But when someone else gets in front of a microphone and a camera and says "He has a plan.  It's a very great plan.  It will be a successful plan and he will fix that" it makes you sound like you are in a cult (which, let's be honest here, isn't that far off in this case).  And it's the "surrogates" that get thrown to the more difficult interview situations (i.e. MSNBC) where the questioner tends to be more probative and demanding of actual facts, figures and policy points.

What's more, Trump's surrogates can't always be sure which side of an issue he is taking at any given moment.  Take immigration for instance.  Is he in favor of deporting 11-million people today?  Or is this the day when he is mocking the media for quoting him as saying he supports that? (The campaign would probably have to send out text alerts--if they actually had someone keeping an eye on what their candidate is actually saying).  And that may change again today as Trump might fly to meet with Mexico's President just hours before a "major immigration speech" which probably isn't even written yet.

Usually, we here at the Radio Ranch refuse to interview "surrogates" because it's non-informative and repetitive.  But given the zig-zag pattern of the Trump campaign so far, we may have to make an exception--if only for the entertainment value.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Ignorance Is Bliss

The Obama Administration is moving into a new phase in the War On Terror: Ignore them and they might go away.  In a speech in Bangladesh, Secretary of State John Kerry said the following:

"Remember this: No country is immune from terrorism. It's easy to terrorize. Government and law enforcement have to be correct 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. But if you decide one day you're going to be a terrorist and you're willing to kill yourself, you can go out and kill some people. You can make some noise. Perhaps the media would do us all a service if they didn't cover it quite as much. People wouldn't know what's going on."
Does Kerry realize how stupid he sounds?  Which terrorist act should the media "not have covered"?  9/11? The Fort Hood attack? The Benghazi embassy attack? The London double decker Bus and Underground attack? The Paris concert attack? The San Bernardino shootings? The Brussels Airport attack? The Orlando nightclub shootings?  I could fill up this entire page with the list of terror attacks in just the last eight years--and we aren't supposed to report on any of those?  Could you imagine driving by the scene of any of these incidents and think "What happened here?  I didn't hear anything about this in the news.  It must be just a training exercise or something!"
A news blackout of terrorism would benefit the Obama Administration by making it "appear" that their "strategy" to contain the menace is effective.  "You haven't heard about any attacks have you?" would be a very effective argument for the low-information voter that makes up the majority of Americans nowadays.  But it doesn't address the root cause of Islamic terrorism.
Could you imagine if Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association had said the same thing about media coverage of non-terror-related mass shootings?  That is all every news network would be talking about today--with huge headlines NRA CHIEF TRIES TO STIFLE MEDIA COVERAGE OF MASS SHOOTINGS!!  Yet, one could make the same argument that media coverage of each successive shooting plants a seed in the mind of the next attacker.
We in the media could probably spend more time covering the Obama Administration efforts to combat Islamic terrorism--especially when it comes to making sure that "people don't know what's going on".

Monday, August 29, 2016

Let Him Sit

Why are we so touchy about people who don't show "proper patriotism"?  We've heard plenty about American athletes not showing "respect" for their flag or the National Anthem the last couple of weeks.  Gymnasts weren't putting their hands over their hearts or singing along to the anthem at the Rio Olympics.  And then on Friday, Colin Kaepernick decided he is no longer going to stand for the anthem as a show of support for Black Lives Matter.

In the grand scheme of things--whether it be your life or the security of our nation--what difference does it make if an athlete shows proper respect for the flag or doesn't?  150 other players, plus coaches trainers and officials on the field in San Francisco Friday night did stand for the anthem and faced the flag.  From personal experience, I know that reporters in the press box never take their eyes off their smartphones during the anthem--and some of them may be the one's taking Kaepernick to task on their talk shows and on-line blogs.

Did the beer lines at Levi's stadium suddenly empty out and everyone go running back into the seating bowl to "honor America?"  How many fans make a bathroom run as soon as the PA announces introduces the musical 'star" or band that is about to play the song--knowing they can still make it back in time for kickoff?

Let's keep in mind that the men and women who have worn the same flag on their uniforms that Colin Kaepernick refuses to honor fought and died for him to have that very freedom.  We may "report" on stars who don't show patriotism in the spotlight--but no government officials are coming to "interrogate" them about their allegiance to the country like they do in some other nations.  If Colin gets carjacked or attacked at a nightclub, the police officers that wear the flag on their sleeves will still come to his aid--whether he is leading the singing of the anthem--or he's sitting in the locker room from now on.  And the government that he accuses of acting against him will continue to print the millions of dollars the 49ers pay him to sit the bench for more than just the National Anthem.

Is the third meaningless game of the pre-season the right place to make a political statement?  Not really.  Is Colin Kaepernick wrong in his beliefs about this country?  I think so.  But the very reason that the rest of us do take a few moments to "honor America" before our sporting events is a reminder of why people like Colin Kaepernick can express themselves in the exact opposite way.

Friday, August 26, 2016

A New Low

It didn't seem possible, but we may have hit a new all-time low in the aftermath of the Teresa Halbach murder case.  I've debated the last few days whether to address this.  We didn't do a news story on it--unlike some other outlets--because the people behind it really don't deserve the coverage.  But I think everyone else should know the type of people pushing the "Steven Avery-Brendan Dassey are the real victims" narrative.

This week, an on-line pornography website announced it is sending Dassey and his family to WrestleMania in Orlando next April.  Much was made of Dassey's love for pro wrestling in stories about his incarceration and appeals--and how the main thing he missed while behind bars was not being able to watch WrestleMania.  An on-line petition was even launched to get World Wrestling Entertainment President Vince McMahon to provide Dassey with a free trip to the show.

But what the website doesn't mention is the role that pornography likely played in the abduction and murder of Halbach.  I'm sure Making a Murderer spends little time on Avery and Dassey's affinity for watching porn.  There is probably no transcript of Dassey's story told to detectives about the sexual torture that Halbach endured before her death.  And even if you think that Dassey just made up all of that in graphic detail to somehow please the police officers, where do you think a 16-year old came up with all of those ideas?

Don't expect Vince McMahon to jump on the "Let's send Brendan Dassey to WrestleMania" bandwagon.  We aren't talking about someone who was exonerated by DNA evidence--or a dramatic arrest of "the real killer".  He may get out on a technicality--and that doesn't sway many non-conspiracy-theorists in their opinion of Dassey.  McMahon will take any publicity he can get--but even this may be a bit too low of a bar--even for him.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Trip Back In Time

I paid a rare visit to the Wittman Regional Airport terminal building here in Oshkosh yesterday.  Unless you are renting a car from Hertz, taking the Greyhound bus out of town, or voting, you don't have much reason to go there nowadays.  Ironically, my visit was for the unveiling of plans for a building that will replace the terminal as early as next year.

But stepping into the terminal is like taking a trip back in time to when air travel was a much simpler endeavor.  The ticket counter is still there--where actual airline employees checked you in--no "self-check in kiosks" that don't read the barcode on the boarding pass you printed at home before heading to the airport or on your smartphone because the screen is smudged--requiring you to find an airline employee to check you in manually--which kind of defeats the purpose of having the self-check-in kiosk.  Those counter folks used to tag your bags as well--which flew with you for free I might add.  And believe it or not kids, you could actually buy a ticket at that counter to get on the plane right away!!

There are no ropes winding their way through the terminal leading to any TSA checkpoints.  No metal detectors or full body scanners.  No Pre-Check line for those of us willing to pay extra to have a few of our Constitutional rights honored at the airport.  You simply went from the check in counter to "the gate" and waited to walk out to your aircraft.

There was some discussion yesterday about what would happen if some airline actually considered bringing service back to Oshkosh someday--and officials admitted that a new terminal building would have to be added on to the new Business Center--just to house all of the stuff I listed above.  (Don't worry, taxpayers--that is never going to happen)  But it got me to thinking if we are really any safer flying now than we were when none of those "security measures" were in place.  You never hear stories of TSA finding actual bombs on passengers or in luggage.  Most incidents involve pro athletes or celebrities forgetting they had loaded guns in their bags.  More often you hear about all of the failed tests--where planted explosives and weapons get through with no detection.

Have the billions--or perhaps trillions--we have spent since 9/11 actually thwarted more attacks?  Did Al Qaeda have more suicide pilots and muscle men ready to board planes--or was it just a one-time thing?  Has it been more effective to fight Islamic terrorists on their own soil?  Did killing Osama Bin Laden effectively cut off the head of the operations that could organize and fund co-ordinated attacks like that?  The problem is, we can't really be sure--and so we continue to spend the tons of money needed to "keep us safe"--even through we really can't prove it. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The End of the Peace Dividend

While I would never endorse Donald Trump's call to end NATO, it would provide a very interesting case study into how long the social democracies of Western Europe could continue to maintain their vast nanny states if they had to pay for their own defense.  During the Brexit debate, European Union bureaucrats argued that it was they who had established the peace and prosperity seen in most of the Continent for decades.  Actually, it was the broad wings of the US Military that has maintained the peace after World War II.

Who funded the Marshall Plan--allowing war-torn Europe to rebuild?  Who stood up to the Soviet aggression of the Cold War? Who quelled ethnic cleansing in the Balkans?  It certainly wasn't Greece, Spain or Belgium.

Donald Trump is correct in saying that many NATO members aren't pulling their own weight.  When it was formed, the alliance required its European members to commit just two percent of their annual budgets to defense efforts.  Today, just five countries are meeting that requirement.  The US covers between 70 and 75% of the annual expenses of NATO--to the tune of $650-BILLION out of the $900-BILLION total.

So let's say the US really did take its ball (and missles and warships and soldiers) and went home--how would our allies make up for that?  And remember, our European friends also enjoy the quick deployment capabilities of the ENTIRE US Military in the event of a major threat of action.  How would the Scandanavian countries--who are already taxed to the max--fund their cradle-to-the-grave entitlement programs when they would have to field much larger armies, develop their own defense technologies, build (or buy) all of those tanks, planes and weapons systems?  Would the French, the Spanish and the Italians be able to take entire months off of work if they had to pay for their own systems of spy satellites, surveillance drones, anti-submarine technology and missle defense systems?  And imagine if every European country had to establish its own intelligence system to infiltrate not just the threats from Russia and China--but the infiltration of their own societies by Islamic terror groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda.

This may lead you to wonder why the US spends all of this money to protect countries that then enjoy the "peace dividend" we fund?  Well it comes from lessons learned in the early 20th Century: we can either pay to maintain the peace in Europe now--or we can pay a lot more--with our lives--to re-establish it later.  And the next time you hear a Liberal say we need to be "more like Europe" in pushing for some entitlement program, ask them which superpower is going to protect us--so we can pay for it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Epitome of Customer Non-Service

Allow me to vent about a major retailer for a moment.  Nearly two years ago, we purchased an entire office-worth of furniture from the Ikea in Schaumburg, Illinois, with plans to replace our current home office fixtures.  The plan was to put in new flooring in the room before construction of the do-it-yourself furniture.  Unfortunately, other more pressing home improvement projects came up--and the new flooring got pushed back (because we are on the Dave Ramsey Plan and we weren't about to borrow for the office makeover).

But finally this month, the new flooring went in--some paint touchup was done--and I could finally put together the Ikea furniture.  After struggling with the no-words-just-generic-illustrations-for-directions, I thought that I had the file cabinet put together--but the middle drawer stuck out farther than the other two drawers--and I knew my "particular" wife would not be cool with that.  So I called the "Customer Service Line" to inquire as to how to fix the problem.

After a 45-minute wait on the phone--because they are "experiencing high call volume" (as every business has been for the last ten years)--I finally got a real person on the line--who of course, couldn't help me with my problem.  That meant another 20-minutes on hold until "someone with more expertise in assembly" could pickup the phone.  After I explained the issue, she called up the very same assembly manual that I already had in front of me (which offered no advice on how to get a drawer to go in farther) and then started "guessing" at what the fix may be.  While following her direction to try and pull out the drawer and re-seat it on its rails I pulled up on the assembly ("you may have to pull pretty hard, sir) I ended up actually breaking a couple of plastic clips that are integral to keeping the drawer on the rails--rendering the drawer useless.

After telling my "expert" that the drawer had broken following her recommendations, she expressed no empathy or regret for giving me obviously wrong information and said that I would have to call a different number to get replacement parts sent to me.  That meant another 45-minutes on hold (they are experiencing "high call volume" again this decade).  After finally getting a "Customer Service Representative" and explaining to her the parts that I would need, I was informed that part cannot be shipped out--because it's "hardware"--and that can only be picked up at the store itself.

Fighting back my growing rage, I accepted her offer to be transferred to the Schaumburg store to inquire about having the parts shipped to me--rather than wasting a day driving down there again.  That is when I entered the "Phone Tree of Death"--being told to enter my parties extension number (which I couldn't possibly know) or to "hold for the operator--which just took me back to the top phone menu again. 

FINALLY after randomly hitting four digit extensions I got a real person to answer the phone!!  She immediately told me that she had nothing to do with floor stock and transferred me to "a person who might know something about that"--where my call immediately went to voice mail.  I can flat out guarantee that call will NEVER be returned. 

So I guess I know what the wife and I will be doing some weekend in September.  And people wonder why I wasn't jumping up and down celebrating that one of these evil hell-holes is opening in Wisconsin.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Last Olympics

The Olympic flame has been doused in Rio, and while it may be an unpopular opinion, I'd be more than okay if we kept it that way.  I know that Games have been awarded to South Korea for the winter of 2018 and Tokyo for the summer of 2020--but we should just cancel them and reconsider the way we put on the largest sports festival in the world. 

When the athletes and the media leave Brazil this week, the country will be left to deal with the huge economic and social problems that were aggravated by the cost of building venues that will see little or no use in the future.  Check out "abandoned Olympic venues" on the internet sometime to see how buildings that were promised to "provide public access for decades to come" are dilapidated and crumbling.  And Brazil was a country that couldn't afford that much unnecessary spending to begin with.  That's why fewer and fewer cities and countries are even interested in bidding on hosting Olympics anymore--it's simply not worth the cost.

The International Olympic Committee could ease this expense by returning more often to cities that have hosted already--and have the infrastructure in place--but that wouldn't allow them to line their pockets with kickbacks from crooked politicians and developers.  And that is how we end up with sites like Sochi, Russia and Rio hosting games--while Los Angeles (which would have to build just one new venue to host the summer games again) are rejected over and over again.

And the pro sports that now support the games are beginning to lose interest.  The NBA could have fielded a team of guys that sat out these Olympics that like could have beaten the Team USA that easily won the gold medal.  And the NHL has absolutely no interest in sending its pros to the South Korea games in two years.  Asia is hardly a hotbed for hockey or potential growth for fan base and sponsors--plus, the players don't want to leave in the middle of their regular season to fight jet lag for a two week tournament halfway around the world.  If you aren't going to have the best compete in your signature event, why even bother.

Let's be honest, the Olympics exist primarily as a television show.  A two-week ratings boost for whatever network is willing to grossly overpay for the broadcast rights--which don't benefit those competing--and rather feed the disgusting beast that is the International Olympic Committee.  Every sport already has its world championships that are held every year--or World Cups contested every four years.  In our modern, every-game-on-every-channel sports world, that should be more than good enough.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Seeing Continued Success

You know what is proving to be a huge waste of time and money?  The efforts to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act.  Instead of filing lawsuits and passing bills that are just going to be vetoed anyway, everyone opposed to the ACA just needs to be patient and let it collapse under its own enormous weight.

Another step in that process came this week as Aetna announced it was dropping out of exchanges in 70% of the markets where it had offered health insurance plans this year.  Add that to similar decisions by UnitedHealth, Humana, Blue Cross and Blue Shield and the bankruptcy of many co-ops who didn't come close to breaking even and you have many people in the exchanges having one--and sometimes no--plans available to them anymore.  Anyone "schocked" or "angry" by this development obviously knows nothing about insurance--or they would have seen this coming from day one.

But the ever-dwindling insurance options may lead to more legal action by those who support the ACA.  The Supreme Court has already decided that the Federal Government can force you to buy a product you may not want to buy (under the guise that it is actually "a tax")--so why couldn't the Justices rule that the Federal Government can force a company to sell a product it may not want to sell? 

And here is how they can do it: claim the insurance companies are engaging in racist and discriminatory practices.  President Obama and Hillary Clinton in their speeches say many of those who were provided Government-subsidized health insurance through the exchanges are minorities.  Therefore, the Department of Justice can "prove" that Aetna's withdrawal from the exchanges is designed only to affect people of color and women.  (Nevermind the $300-Million in losses this year alone).

Armed with their latest judicial victory, the Administration could force every insurance company in the country to return to the exchanges (and probably dictate premiums as well) no matter how much money they lose on the policies.  All of which will lead to either the total collapse of the private health insurance industry--or result in such astronomical rate increases on those with standard plans--that public outcry will demand the Single-Payer, Government-Controlled Health Care that the "success of ObamaCare"--disguised as a "failure" was designed to usher in from the very start.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

What Do We Have to Offer Them?

Every time we have riots like those seen in Milwaukee this weekend, the local leaders (usually long-term Democrats) say "We need to do more for these neighborhoods".  But really, what do we have to offer those living in the most down-trodden areas in our largest cities?

Unfortunately, those folks have learned that having government-subsidized health insurance has made no real impact on their lives--since you can't just flash an insurance card to pay for your groceries or keep the lights on.  There's plenty of talk about decriminalizing marijuana use--because those folks who were throwing rocks and burning down gas stations just needed a "little hit of the chronic" to make their problems disappear for a little while.  And President Obama commuting drug sentences and putting dealers back on the streets in those same neighborhoods sends a real powerful message as well.

In the case of Milwaukee, those city leaders are offering what Sheriff David Clarke calls "the ghettos" a new downtown arena surrounded by upscale hotels and restaurants and high-end apartments and condos--which should be a source of many part-time jobs cleaning or doing other low-skill service work.  And then of course, there is the streetcar line--which will connect the "entertainment district" with the new upscale residences near the lakeshore--not the neighborhoods where people who can't afford cars could actually ride it to their part-time menial jobs.

To be fair to Mayor Tom Barrett and the rest of the hapless Milwaukee City Hall leadership, arenas and restaurants are about the only thing they can offer in terms of economic development and new jobs.  The days of our cities being industrial centers are over.  Big plants employing thousands of people with varying levels of education and job skills use too much energy, emit too many carbons and threaten water supplies.  So all of that work is now done by the Chinese and other Asian workers and shipped back to WalMart (which tends to avoid downtrodden neighborhoods as well).

As other cities have discovered, even when you put effort into improving high-poverty areas, things usually backfire.  New public transportation lines, money to improve rental units and tear down dilapidated buildings and cleaning up street crime leads to young, white (liberal) professionals seeing those areas as the "hip new place to be"--so they come in with more money--driving up rents--and driving out those whom the improvements were supposed to benefit, in a process called "gentrification".

The demand to improve public schools in Milwaukee is spot on as well--but does nothing for the tens of thousands of dropouts and under-educated people that were already allowed to coast through the system for decades.  And the man appointed to create better schools in the worst neighborhoods quit after the School Board and district officials refused to do business with him.  So efforts to make things better have already met with failure.

So what do we offer those taking to the streets demanding "economic equality" and "social justice" that will actually fix the problem, long-term?

Monday, August 15, 2016

THE GREATEST EVER!!! (For This Year)

Want to get me to turn off Olympics coverage?  Just have the commentators start talking about how the person that just won the competition we watched is the "Greatest Ever".  There was plenty of that talk over the weekend as Michael Phelps added to his unprecedented gold medal collection and Usain Bolt became the first man to win the 100-meter dash in three consecutive Olympics.

For Phelps the declaration was that he is the "Greatest Olympian Ever!!"  While Phelps has more gold medals that over 100-counties have accumulated in the history of the Olympics, did he ever face the societal and political pressure that Jesse Owens did in Berlin in 1936?  Has Phelps ever been referred to as an "African surrogate" and had Hitler root against him?  In winning his four-straight golds in the 200-meter individual medley did he ever have to hold a regular "non-swimming" job to make ends meet like Al Oerter did between his four consecutive gold medals in the discus?

Phelps reign as the "Greatest Ever!!" (at least in the eyes of NBC Olympic commentators) was short-lived--as a night later, Usain Bolt was declared one of the "Greatest Athletes Ever!!" after running for less than ten seconds.  His third straight gold in that event was compared to the career accomplishments of Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan.

Now when we are talking about "athletes" I like to think of people that can do various things in a variety of sports that require different skill sets.  That's why--for me--the greatest athletes ever are Bo Jackson and Jim Thorpe.  That's it, that's the list.  Thorpe won both the Pentathalon (five events)AND the Decathalon (ten events) IN THE SAME OLYMPICS!! He also played professional baseball and professional football--being inducted into that sport's Hall of Fame in Canton.  Bo Jackson was an All-Star in Major League Baseball and the National Football League IN THE SAME YEAR!!   Plus, he ran track in college and qualified for the NCAA Championships--WHILE ALSO PLAYING ON THE AUBURN BASEBALL TEAM!!

I will grant you that Jim Thorpe would never catch Michael Phelps in the pool--but would Phelps come close to competing with Thorpe in 15 different Olympic events--and then play two completely different sports professionally after that?  And in his prime, Bo Jackson probably could have stayed within a second of Usain Bolt on the track--but do you think Bolt could hit within .100 points of Jackson's MLB batting average?  Or amass one-tenth of the yardage he gained carrying and catching the ball in the NFL?

So please, let's keep things in perspective when lauding our modern Olympic heroes.  Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps are among the greatest in their specialized activities--but let's not start putting them ahead of guys that showed they could do so much more than go fast in a straight line.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Legislation by Litigation

Pop quiz: Is Wisconsin's Voter ID Law currently in full effect?  When you went to the polls on Tuesday for the primary election, the answer was "Yes".  Everyone had to show a legal ID to get a ballot.  But when you woke up on Wednesday, a ruling by Federal Judge Lynn Adelman had gone into effect, where if someone who wanted to vote in the November general election didn't have legal ID, they could just sign an affidavit swearing to their identity--and then they could vote.  However, by lunchtime yesterday, a Federal Appeals Court issued a stay on Judge Adelman's ruling--meaning full voter ID is back in effect for November--unless the Appeals Court issues a final ruling before ballots are printed--in which case, a totally different set of rules may apply.

If you're my age you may recall learning about how laws are made this way:

But today, that is NOT how laws are made.  Yes, legislative bodies approve measures and executives sign them--but now many new laws are immediately challenged in court--sometimes before they can actually go into effect (even though the law holds in most cases that aggrieved parties have to show that they have actually been harmed by a law rather than just thinking they might be harmed by a law).

And it's not just laws that are constantly being challenged in court, it's executive orders and even voter-approved Constitutional amendments.  And it leads to the on-again, off-again status of regulations, requirements and even civil rights that make our country look like a banana republican that doesn't know how to govern.

So here's an idea: let's just have every proposed bill, order and amendment go through litigation before anybody votes on it or signs it?  Yes, it could take years and even decades to do that--but it will at least ensure that once a law goes into effect--it stays in effect.  If a state bill upsets liberals, the challenge can be filed in Dane County.  Conservatives can file their challenges in Waukesha County courts.  Federal challenges can go to San Francisco for liberals and Texas for conservatives.  And then the long process of appeals and further appeals can go on until even the most innocuous measure goes before the Supreme Court of the United States for the final legal challenge.  (The only fly in the ointment is that due to Senate filibuster or just plain inaction, all of the Supreme Court Justices and Federal Court Judges will have retired or died by that time--and there will be no one to hear the cases)

But at least then--and only then--"Bill" can start sitting on Capitol Hill.  And once he signs you, Bill, you really will be a law--instead of the first step in a confusing, expensive legal battle.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

No Need To Apologize

You know what has been the best part of the Presidential campaign for me so far?  Never having to come up with an apology or an excuse for the candidate that I'm backing.  I can wake up and not fear what's on my Twitter timeline or having people post to my Facebook page a link to another controversy and "Look what your candidate said now!"

Every day I hear Donald Trump supporters stammer and contort themselves trying to "explain what he really meant to say" after he insults and alienates another large group of prospective voters.  "He was only kidding!" is the most popular excuse.  "You know he didn't actually mean that!" is another.  And then there is "The media is taking everything out of context!"  And if there doesn't seem to be any rational explanation for the latest stream of consciousness moment they always like to fall back on "He's still better than Crooked Hillary!"

As I've mentioned before, there is a certain percentage of people for whom Donald Trump could never do anything heinous enough, could never say anything too offensive and could never tell a big enough lie or flip-flop on an issue in consecutive sentences often enough to get them not to vote for him.  But that is a very, very small minority of Americans.  The size of which could lead to the type of a blowout loss usually reserved for Democrats like Michael Dukakis, Walter Mondale, Adlai Stevenson and George McGovern.  And those were boring guys who went out of their ways not to offend people or say things that would make people hate them.

But don't worry, The Trumpster is already feeding his sycophants all the excuses they need for Wednesday, November 9th: "The elections are rigged", "The media was biased", "Establishment Republicans sabotaged the campaign to protect their power in Washington" and of course "Hillary cheated". 

I stand by my belief that Donald Trump is running his campaign like the reality TV show that made him famous--start out being outrageous and keep trying to be more outrageous every week.  The only problem is that there's a big difference between getting ratings--and getting people to vote for you for the most powerful position in the world.  And I make no apologies or excuses for believing in that.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Dangerous Event City

I think Oshkosh's tenure as "Wisconsin's Event City" is beginning to wear on people.  I don't mean just the city's public safety and public works staff that are stretched thin all summer long working and patrolling the nearly constant stream of public gatherings, concerts and potential traffic jams which mark our summers now--but rather the general public as well.  Hence the little bit of ugliness that we saw with the Oshkosh Advisory Parks Board and organizers of Sawdust Days last night.

As we've been reporting the last couple of days, some Parks Board members are fed up with incidents taking place in and around Menominee Park during the 4th of July weekend.  The most serious this year was a melee involving dozens of teenagers that required almost twenty police officers to break up.  But Parks Board member Bill Gogolewski came out firing with even more serious allegations last night, claiming Sawdust Days "brings gangs and drugs to the park every year" and that "someone is going to get shot by police someday".  Not exactly the kind of reviews that Sawdust Days is going to put on next year's flyer to attract attendees.

I would have to say that there was a lot of "code talking" going on around the topic yesterday.  In her interview with us on WOSH Monday morning, Sawdust Days Chairperson Ellen Schmidt said it was a "group from Menasha that comes every year just to cause trouble" that started the fight--and that she would be "profiling, if she described the group".  Mr Gogolewski's comments also draw inferences--especially when such allegations are tied to "certain parts of the park during Sawdust Days".  I should add that his comments were made in the context of "I talked to police officers who worked the event and they said....."--so we will definitely be checking with Police Chief Dean Smith as to whether or not the Department believes gangs and drug dealers are taking over Sawdust Days.

This little tiff comes a couple of weeks after Common Council Member Lori Palmeiri asked why the police services fee was so high for the Hmong Festival at Winnebago Community Park on Labor Day weekend--and Chief Smith informed her that it's because the Department keeps a tactical team on site that weekend--just in case.  That is the same festival that was denied a special event permit one year when dueling factions within that community came before the Common Council claiming the other was making threats against them.

Bill Gogolewski wondered why attendees at Sawdust Days "can't be more like those at Lifest"--the Christian music festival held at the Sunnyview Expo Grounds--for which admission is charged and there is a fence around the grounds.  He must have forgotten about the sexual assault case that stemmed from the camping area out there one year, or the girl that was killed on one of the thrill rides.  Of course, Lifest doesn't have an on-site hoosegow like the Winnebago County Sheriff's Department has out at Country USA and Rock USA to deal with all of the drunk and disorderlies.  And the Fire Department doesn't have to sit on edge with heavy equipment ready to roll to Sawdust Days like it does when there are five-thousand takeoffs and landings at Wittman Airport during EAA.

Just another weekend in "Wisconsin's (Dangerous) Event City"!

Monday, August 8, 2016

More Gold For the Rich

You know who must really hate the Olympics?  Bernie Sanders and all of his followers.  It's not really the those who can soar the highest, run the fastest or jump the farthest that win the gold--it's those who can afford to play the game that win.

The addition of professional athletes to the Olympics forever changed the course of many sports.  Men's basketball is now the sole domain of multi-millionaires--as is men's hockey in the Winter Games.  All of the tennis and golf competitors are pros with huge career earnings.  Track stars and swimmers can also make a pretty good living on the pro circuits.

But being rich is a big advantage in the so-called "collegiate sports" as well.  The difference between making the Olympics and being just good enough to make amateur squads is often high-priced coaching, training methods and equipment.  Wouldn't you like to know how much the parents of Michael Phelps spent on renting pool time, traveling to swim with top-level trainers and to compete in the types of competitions that get you noticed by national federations?  Or how much was spent to get Simone Biles to the point where she can be considered one of the greatest gymnasts of all time?  Maybe we can just ask the parents of all those kids that didn't have the talent to go along with mom and dad's deep pockets (or huge debts) to get to Rio.

And then some sports still exist simply to give the well-to-do a chance to achieve Olympic glory due almost exclusively to their means.  In watching the opening ceremonies on Friday night, you may have noticed some older folks walking amongst the athletes.  You may have assumed they were Olympic federation officials or maybe coaches.  But many of them are "athletes" in sports like equestrian and sailing (I've always thought that the equestrian "athletes" should have to ride their horses into the stadium).  Not a lot of "going from the streets to the Olympic team" stories for NBC to warm your heart with while showing tape-delayed, prime time coverage in those sports.  "For Tamika Lewis, her love of horses came from watching mounted police try to break up riots in her Baltimore neighborhood....."

Those feeling the Bern could start their own "Socialist Olympics" where the rich kids who win medals are forced to give them to the athletes that couldn't buy the best training in the world.  Or to those who didn't even bother to get off the couch and try.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Why We Can't Have THAT Conversation

We certainly stepped in it on our sister station yesterday.  The morning show host mentioned a tidbit on the air about how the average American man is 5'9" tall.  He remarked that he was surprised that the average is that "short" and he wondered why it has stagnated over the past few decades.  I pointed out that America's racial diversity is actually the reason that our height numbers aren't growing like other countries--as a the percentage of the population from European descent is declines and non-European ancestry increases.

Not surprisingly, several calls came in from listeners angry that we would suggest that non-European-descent immigrants are shorter than those of us with European heritage.  The term "stereotype" was tossed around a few times as was "there are tall Hispanics (or Asians) too, you know".  The morning show host fumbled through a pseudo-apology but I offered no such concession.  Instead, I listed the tallest average nations in the world--as compiled by the World Health Organization:

9--United States
1--Netherlands (where men are an average of six-feet tall)

What can we deduce from that list?  That the US is the most racially-diverse out of all of them?  That taller nations tend to be in Europe with very homogenous populations?

Being just a shade over 6'2", I enjoy being tall.  Because I've been involved in sports my whole life, most of my friends are tall too.  But there are advantages to being short as well.  You should have seen me trying to get through the doorways and hatches of the Martin Mars aircraft during EAA or trying to fit into seats at Wrigley Field--both of which were built at a time when the average American man was about 5'6".

Besides, when someone is defensive about their stature and acts like they are all big and tough we say they have a "Napoleon Complex"--and he was a tiny little French guy.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

One Sure Thing

There are no sure things in sports--the term "upset" comes from the name of the only horse to ever beat the Triple Crown winner Man O' War in a race--but there are a couple of sure things in the upcoming Olympics.  One is that US Men's Basketball team will win the gold medal.  The other is that the US Women's Basketball team will win gold as well.

Despite not having LeBron James or Steph Curry, the men's team is far and away the most-talented team in the competition.  They blew out everyone in their exhibition games leading up to Rio and there is no real time zone change to adapt to--as Brazil is in the same hemisphere.

It wasn't that long ago that USA Men's Basketball wasn't an automatic gold medal winner.  The team that went to Athens in 2004--just 12-years ago--lost three games and came home with only bronze.  I remember at the time that experts were saying that the US was no longer the "undisputed superpower of the sport".  That Europeans had surpassed us in terms of fundamentals and team play--and that sending an all-star team was not going to be good enough anymore.  (In a way it reminds me every foreign policy speech that President Obama has ever given.)

To be honest, the 2004 team sent to Athens was a disaster.  It was a bunch of ballhogs, guys that couldn't shoot and totally devoid of any defensive effort.  It was the era of "AND1" basketball--streetball ruled the game and it was all about getting your shots, looking at flashy as possible doing it--and who cares about everybody else on the court.  It didn't help that the incredibly over-rated Larry Brown was the coach--who hated the style of play and the young guys that were playing it.

But now, just 12-years later, here is the US standing head and shoulders above the rest of the world again.  While he may be portrayed as this bad guy, LeBron James should get plenty of the credit.  He was on the 2004 team--but Brown hardly played him--and since then his style of play has returned some credibility to the NBA game.  LeBron shares the ball and sets up his teammates.  He rebounds, he defends and he works within a team system to win.  And the guys that grew up wanting to be him--and not Alan Iverson or Stephon Marbury--make up the team that will stomp everyone in Rio.

And if you think the gap between the US and the rest is big in the men's game--the Team USA Ladies will likely find even less competition in their tournament.  They are currently on a 41-game Olympic winning streak--and few of those games have even been close.  This year's NCAA Champion UConn Huskies could probably have come to the Olympics and won the gold.  But we should give credit to the WNBA for this one thing--keeping US players involved in the game stateside--so that international competition like this is more interesting for them.

So go ahead, put the mortgage payment down on a double gold for the USA on the hardwoods this month.  It's one of the few "five-star, sure-fire, solid-gold lock of the week" that you will ever find.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Another Lost Election

We are just a week away from heading to the polls again here in Wisconsin.  Oh, you weren't aware of the Fall Primary on August 9th?  Don't feel bad--most of your fellow Wisconsinites weren't either.  And that's unfortunate, because there are some pretty big races on the ballot.  You've got Democratic primaries in the 6th and 8th Congressional Districts.  A Republican primary in the 8th.  Republican and Democratic primaries in the 18th State Senate District race.  And an outrageous four-way GOP primary for Winnebago County Register of Deeds--a position that should be appointed at best and eliminated at worst (but that's a subject of another My Two Cents somewhere down the road).

Unfortunately, people are giving very little thought to politics and elections in early August.  Instead, they are thinking about last-minute summer road trips, back-to-school shopping, getting college kids ready to head back to campus, spending time at the cottage and golf.  They aren't thinking about where Congressional candidates stand on the issues or what makes a "good Republican" Register of Deeds.

This primary used to be held in September--when people are less distracted by the trappings of summer--and lives fall into a more mundane routine.  It would be like Labor Day Weekend passed and folks would get 'serious" about things again--including politics.  But the push to have more people "vote early" necessitated moving the primary into early August so that general election ballots would be printed and available for absentee voting in October.

It's ironic that an effort to "get more people to vote" actually ends up reducing turnout for at least one election--as clerks are expecting just 20-percent turnout next Tuesday.  And again, there are some very important races on the ballot here (and the Register of Deeds race, too).  I guess we should be encouraged that turnout would be better than the February primary for non-partisan local races where poll workers take turns sleeping and waking each other up when people actually come through the doors.  That's why school districts like holding referenda on those dates.

So try to make it to the polls next Tuesday, if you're not too busy at the beach, or the pool, or the ball diamond, or at the lake, or on the course, or in the Dells.........

Monday, August 1, 2016

Is Gerald Ford Running Again?

For those of you old enough to remember, the 1976 campaign of President Gerald Ford was derailed during a debate with Jimmy Carter in which Ford claimed Eastern Europe was not under the control of the Soviet Union:

The gaffe made it appear that Ford had no idea what was going on in the geo-political world.  That, coupled with his pardon of Richard Nixon shortly after taking office, threw a close election to Jimmy Carter (and we all know what a disaster that turned out to be).

On Sunday, I thought Gerald Ford had risen from the grave to join George Stephanapoulos on ABC's "This Week" program to discuss the situation in Ukraine with the invasion of that country by "forces wanting to return to Russian control".  It just turned out to be Donald Trump:

This gaffe took place on a lightly-watched Sunday morning news program--and not a debate televised on all TV networks.  But it shows just how little Reality Show Candidate knows about what is going on around him--and the situation that celebrity-obsessed voters may place him into next year.