Monday, October 31, 2016

Wonder Weapons and Kamikaze

In the waning days of World War II as he huddled in his Berlin bunker, Hitler held out hope that the so-called "Wonder Weapons" developed by his scientists would produce a miracle reversal of fortune for the Third Reich.  Hitler thought that the jet-powered Messerschmidt ME-262 would suddenly give the Luftwaffe superiority in the air while the V-1 and V-2 rockets could rain terror upon England and the United States long enough for both countries to sue for peace before destroying all of Germany.

At the same time, Hitler's Axis Powers ally Japan was sending out pilots on suicide missions.  Low on capable fighter pilots, bombs and ammunition, these new recruits were trained to fly their planes directly into American naval warships and inflict as much damage as possible.  They were known as "Kamikaze"--or "divine wind".  The name came from typhoons that had sunk an invading Chinese naval fleet and had appeared to come out of nowhere to protect Japan in 1274 and 1281--and the High Command believed these suicide pilots could do the same thing in modern war.

Of course, the Nazi "Wonder Weapons" did not turn the tide of the war in Europe.  For starters, they entered the battle much too late--and the Germans had already suffered too much in the way of damages and losses to ever hope to recover.  And the Kamikaze did nothing more than cement in President Harry Truman's mind that dropping atomic weapons on Japan was justified to prevent tens of thousands of US military deaths in invading a country full of suicidal zealots.

I thought of both the Wonder Weapons and the Kamikaze this weekend while Donald Trump supporters crowed about the FBI announcement that it was continuing its investigation into Hillary Clinton's private email server while Secretary of State.  Here was the last minute, October Surprise that was going to sink the Clinton campaign just as it appeared it was going to steamroll to a convincing victory!

Well here is how things are actually going to play out over the next week: Every media outlet will find Clinton surrogates, Democrats and liberal leaning think tankers to discredit FBI Director James Comey as a right-winger that released his statement strictly to sabotage the Clinton campaign with little time left before election day.  Those same folks will also reiterate the line about how "this happened years ago, she said she was sorry for doing it and she won't do it again" and Mrs Clinton will not have to answer any direct questions about what Huma Abedin would have been hiding on a personal laptop she shared with her husband.  Clinton supporters--many of whom have taken advantage of absentee voting periods and already cast their ballots--aren't going to change their minds--while the rest of America will think "I already knew she thought she was above the law, this doesn't change my thinking one bit--I'm still not voting for either one of these losers".

And after Clinton wins next month, the stories of the FBI investigation will be shoved to the back burner--if mentioned at all--as all of the talking heads focus on what long-time Washington insiders will be back in the halls of power as Clinton Administration cabinet members or political consultants.  And then--probably on the morning of Christmas Eve Day when no one is paying any attention--the FBI (likely under an "interim director") will issue a report that finds that the incoming President did have more clsssified emails sent to her private server--and shared with those not authorized to see such emails to get their political opinions on the ways to proceed--but that there "still isn't enough evidence" to ask for a grand jury indictment against Clinton.  That will be followed by four years of Congressional Republican investigations, a failed impeachment attempt and Clinton's decision not to seek re-election in 2020.

So for those of you thinking that last Friday's statement from the FBI is about to turn the tide of what's already become inevitable--you may want to brush up on your history.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Campaigning For Profit

When the 2016 Presidential campaign is all said and done, I look forward to the book Donald Trump will publish bragging about how much money he made on the process.  The self-proclaimed billionaire kicked off his run for the White House by claiming that he could self-fund his campaign--even though it would be a "major sacrifice" to do so.  And at first, that appeared to be true.  Trump didn't hold big-money fundraisers or send out contribution requests early in the primary process. 

But then he started talking about how people would send him $10 in the mail with letters saying "I know you don't need this--but I just have to help".  And that's when the campaign put "Donate Here" buttons on their website--and social media posts started popping up on our timelines asking for money--which The Donald claimed he would "match out of his own pocket".  The campaign even sold a "Black Card" for larger donors--which looked like a fancy credit card--but didn't actually provide any benefits to the buyer.

What Trump is almost sure to brag about is how much of that money went right back into his own bank accounts.  Trump's campaign headquarters is located in his own building in New York--which means any "rent" he is paying goes to his own bottom line.  He's flying around the country in his own plane--which he then reimburses with campaign donations.  On the road he stays at his own hotels and resorts--again reimbursed.  And the fundraisers that he has hosted have been at his own estates--which can also be charged back to the campaign.

And if Trump is actually matching all donations out of his own pocket, Trump for President must have raised only 31-thousand dollars this month--because that is all campaign finance records show the candidate contributing to the effort.  That is likely a contributing factor to the staggering funding gap between the two campaigns--as Hillary Clinton raised $513-MILLION through October 19th--while the Trump campaign has brought in just $255-MILLION.  Most experts agree it is the most substantial difference they have seen in modern Presidential campaigns.

To his credit, Trump has been able to keep his national advertising spending to a minimum as his outrageous comments and behavior have all but guaranteed that all news coverage has focused exclusively on him.  But it will still be interesting to see just how much of a moneymaker this campaign has been for Trump.  And you know he'll be more than happy to brag about it.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

You Can't Forget What You Never Knew

In what little spare time I have, I like watching shows and reading about history.  Of particular interest to me are the wars involving the United States over the years and the strategies that were employed--both successful and those that were failures.  Documentarians and historians have had plenty of material to work with in chronicling the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the two World
Wars, Korea and Vietnam.  The brevity of the first Gulf War provides a little less to work with.  But 15-years of fighting the War On Terror and we still have very little information to know about it.

Americans followed along with the movement of troops in the Revolution, the Civil War and World War I through newspapers.  World War II and Korea brought radio reports and newsreel footage.  The television coverage of Vietnam may have actually turned America against that war--as Harry Reasoner and Tom Jarrel brought the horrors of battle into people's living rooms for the first time.  The first Gulf War literally played out live in prime time on CNN--as did the invasion of Iraq.  But how much TV footage do you see every night from Iraq and Afghanistan?

Those with soldiers in the fight--and those working to help the US win--knew the names of the towns were battles were fought.  And they knew the generals conducting the strategy: Washington, Grant, Lee, Pershing, Eisenhower, Patton, MacArthur, Nimitz, Westmoreland and Schwartzkopf.  But who is the commander of American operations in Iraq right now?  What is the main site of the fighting in Afghanistan this month?  You could probably stump everyone you know with those two questions--because news coverage of this war has become nearly non-existent. (By the way, the US commander in Iraq is Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend)

Yes, Mosul is in the headlines right now.  But how far into a newscast did you have to watch before there was any mention of it?  And how far down did you have to scroll on your smartphone news app to find a link to a brief story with generalizations about "senior officials" saying the operation is a success and that ISIS is on the run.  We are holding a Presidential election and there has been little to no discussion about strategies to actually bring an end to these wars.  Could you imagine if Roosevelt didn't have to answer a single question about operations in Europe or the Pacific during the 1944 election?

I know Korean vets like to call theirs the "Forgotten War"--but that is because World War II was so prodigious before it--and Vietnam was so controversial after it.  But we've got a war that has been completely forgotten already--and it's still going on.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

So Who Has to be Tolerant Here?

It was a Twitter headline that I just had to tap: "Neighbors Complain Madison BBQ Joint Smells Like Meat".  It led me to a Capitol Times article detailing a battle between people living in the Williamson Street neighborhood and a restaurant that serves "real" barbecue.

For those who aren't familiar with what the locals call "Willy Street", it is probably the most liberal part of the most liberal city in the state.  It's the kind of neighborhood where you don't even put out a garbage bin every week--because your waste is either recyclable or it is composting in the back yard--and putting out a campaign sign for a Republican candidate is considered "hate speech".  It's also the kind of neighborhood where the people preach "tolerance for others"--but in true liberal fashion--don't actually practice it.

So these folks are upset with That BBQ Joint and the aroma of smoked meat that eminates from it.  (I've checked on-line reviews of the place and they are generally positive--pointing out that you need to get there early or the most popular meats may be sold out--which tells me this is not a "fake" BBQ place that amazingly prepares a rack of ribs for you in just 15-minutes).  As an aspiring BBQ Pitmaster myself, I would be more than happy to have that place as a neighbor--as much for the good eats nearby, as for the beautiful smell of pork shoulder or brisket slow-cooking over wood.

But Willy Street has vegans living there--and they can't "tolerate" the smell of meat.  So they are demanding that the restaurant install incredibly expensive 'scrubbers" to remove the "offensive odor" coming from the BBQ pits.  Environmentalists are also concerned about the "carcinogens" produced by burning wood as well.

In a city like Madison, you would think that opposition from these two groups would spell doom for That BBQ Joint--but the owners are playing the race card.  One of them is of mixed racial heritage--and he claims that opposition to his restaurant is "white privilege"--saying "These complaints are the way people harass minority-owned businesses" (and when you think about it, most people do complain about "the smell" of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani and Mexican restaurants--but not the steakhouse or fish fry place right across the street).  What's more, the Joint owners point out that they also serve a largely minority clientele (which has led to complaints about noise coming from the business as well).

This is a situation that bears watching--because as we increasingly become a nation of "persecuted minorities" and "victims of institutional discrimination" it becomes more and more difficult to determine who has to be "tolerant" by "being offended"--and who gets their way.

Now if we were still a nation of laws and not "feelings", this situation could be fixed with two simple questions: "Is the property zoned Commercial for use as a restaurant?"--yes--and "Do the emissions coming from the restaurant meet EPA standards for particulate matter and composition?"--yes, again.  There you go, That BBQ Joint stays.  That was easy.

Monday, October 24, 2016

It Will Never Be the Same

The Chicago Cubs are poised to end the longest championship drought in major US sports history this week.  After capturing their first National League pennant since 1945 (when most quality major leaguers were off fighting World War II) the Cubs will try to win their first World Series since 1908 (when the legendary, Tinkers to Evers to Chance was an actual double play combination--and not a musty old poem).  However, Cubs fans themselves may want to consider very carefully if they actually want that to happen.

As it is now, Cubs fans hold a special place in sports fandom.  (And I'm talking here about the long-time-I-remember-Ron-Santo-and-Ernie-Banks Cubs fans--not the marketing reps that moved to Chicago three years ago and realized the bleachers at Wrigley are the place to be and be seen.)  They are "long-suffering" or "loveable losers".  People feel sympathy for them and will likely root for Chicago in the Series for no other reason than "I want those fans to be happy".

But a Cubs win this week and their fans become just like the rest of us.  They will be no different than Giants fans or Mets fans or any other franchise that has won a world title since the invention of television.  America used to feel the same way about Boston Red Sox fans as they tried to reverse the "Curse of the Bambino"--then the Red Sox won a couple of titles and "Sawks Fans" became reviled and insufferable.  That same fate belies our "loveable Cubby fans" if 1908 is erased from the record books.

And I can tell you from personal experience, Cubs baseball will never be as special to you as it is right now.  I myself am a fan of two franchises that had lengthy title droughts.  The San Francisco Giants had not won a World Series since they were in New York back in 1954.  They had close calls in 1989 (when an earthquake interrupted the series) and in 2002 (when they blew a lead late in Game 6 to the Anaheim Angels before losing Game 7 the next night).  Finally, in 2010 they beat Texas for the World Series title and we could all celebrate. 

My beloved Boston Bruins had never won a Stanley Cup in my lifetime either--last capturing the title in May of 1972--while I was born in July of that year.  They had made the Cup Final several times since then--losing to the juggernaut Edmonton Oilers with Wayne Gretzky a couple of times and to inferior Montreal Canadiens teams in several playoffs as well.  But in a glorious comeback from down 3-2 in 2011 they topped Vancouver to finally hoist the Cup.

While the celebrations after those titles were fantastic--I noticed that playoff runs weren't as exciting after that.  When the Giants won another World Series in 2012, I didn't even stay up to watch the clinching game in Detroit.  And when the Bruins lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Cup Final two years later, my reaction was "Meh".  Gone is that intoxicating mix of excitement, anticipation, desperation and dread that had made pre-championship playoff runs so much more fun.  You had that title "in the bank" and getting another didn't seem as important anymore.

And that is what awaits you, Cubs fans if your team doesn't find a way to blow it this week.  Remember, it will never mean as much to you as it does right now.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Rout Night

Tonight is the first night of the WIAA High School Football Playoffs.  It is also the worst night of High School Football of the year.  There will be more blowouts, routs and running clocks in the second half than in any other week of the year.  You know why?  Because about 3/4's of the WIAA playoff field should be at home getting ready for the next sports season.

224 teams make the WIAA Football Playoff field--32 teams in seven divisions based on enrollment.  In each of those divisions, at most 5 or 6 schools have a legitimate chance at winning a state title.  The "reward" of making the post-season requires nothing more than a .500 record in conference play.  That is why every year, there are teams with overall losing records that make the playoffs--because there aren't 224 teams that finish with good enough regular season performances.

And those teams that scrape in with the barely-good-enough records get to meet teams like Kimberly, Brookfield Central, Arrowhead, Homestead and St Mary's Springs in the first round--and get blown off the field.  A few get lucky and match up against equally-mediocre squads in games that aren't particularly well-played--but at least are somewhat competitive.

Supporters of the "Playoffs for nearly everyone" status-quo can point to Winneconne's Cinderella run to a state title a few years ago and say "See, that proves teams with losing records can still go all the way!"  But that is one team--who played smaller schools than they had all regular season--in the 45-year history of the WIAA Playoffs.  Unlike basketball where a team with lesser talent can scheme its way past better, deeper opponents, skill, depth and especially strength differences in football are nearly impossible to overcome.  The play clock and the need to continue to make first downs guarantees that.

Trimming the playoff field considerably would also show that the WIAA is serious about the "protecting the kids" philosophy it espouses in public service announcements you can hear on this very radio station.  The teams that have legit shots at state titles have to play five more games to get the gold ball.  That is more than half the games they play in the regular season--and five more nights of helmet-to-helmet contact that doctors say is cumulative in effect.

So to the 190 or so "also rans", I say congratulations on making the playoffs.  Now enjoy the butt-whippings coming your way.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Vote Now! Before You Lose All Hope

Later today, I will be heading down to Oshkosh City Hall to cast an in-person absentee ballot.  When you work in the media, Election Day is incredibly long and hectic--so spending up to an hour in line to vote can be almost next to impossible.  Voting early eases some of the stress of that day.

Another reason I will be voting today is that I feel the need to cast my ballot before this election process gets me to the point where I don't even want to vote anymore.  As I listened to last night's debate here on WOSH, I was overcome with this feeling that we are going to be in for another long, hard four years--and that the fallout from those four years is likely going to linger for the majority of the rest of my life.

Maybe it was the naivete of youth, but I really used to look forward to voting every election cycle.  But as the years have gone by, that enthusiasm has waned.  The first problem is that we are in a never-ending election cycle now.  People roll their eyes and groan when I says the RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE 2020 starts the Wednesday after the election day.  (I'll put an hour's pay on Fox News Channel having poll results moments after the race is called showing which Republican is the "early frontrunner" four years out.)  After a while, you just need a break.

And then, the quality of choices at nearly every level of government has gone downhill as well.  The only person I can think of that espouses the same values and beliefs that I have that's been on the ballot in the past decade has actually been myself.  (It wasn't like you could just vote for Paul Ryan in 2012--and drawing an arrow putting him at the top of the ticket and Mitt Romney under him would have just messed up the voting machine.)

Unfortunately, making me not want to vote is a campaign goal for both of the political parties now.  When you have lukewarm support for your candidate within your own party, convincing more of the other party's members--and especially those who consider themselves "independent"--to stay home and not cast a ballot becomes all the more important.  Well, I refuse to be manipulated in that way.  They still have write-in slots--and I can still vote for my principles and not have to "compromise" by selecting the "lesser of two evils".

If you still plan to vote on Election Day itself, I wish you strength and resolve to make it there.  You're going to need it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Next Nixon

Sometimes I have to remind myself that this isn't 1968--since it appears that we are electing the Next Richard Nixon.  If you think that I am talking about Hillary Clinton--you would be correct.  And if you think that I am referring to Donald Trump--you too would be correct.

For those of you who took revisionist American History, I'm going to have to provide some background.  1960 was supposed to be "Nixon's time" to ascend to the Presidency.  But he lost a close race to a younger, hipper candidate who promised his legion of young voters "hope and change".  It looked like Nixon's political career may be over.  But in 1968, it really was "Nixon's time".  However, his Presidential win was not so much about passionate support from a broad base--but rather from the complete collapse of the opposing party into chaos and division during the election process.

By all accounts, Nixon was calculating, cold, manipulative and vindictive.  When presented with information on the Watergate break-in (which he had no previous knowledge of and did not take part in any of the planning) his first instinct was not to come clean with the American public and hold those responsible accountable for their actions.  Instead, Nixon authorized a coverup--and then used the resources of the Federal Government to obstruct investigations into Watergate and to intimidate those who tried to get to the bottom of the matter.  He even obstructed Congress by refusing to turn over records and recordings.  And when the Supreme Court finally ordered him to turn over his Oval Office recordings, 18-minutes of that audio suddenly "disappeared".  (Nixon claimed his secretary "accidentally" did that while transcribing them).

Does any of that sound familiar?

What also sounds familiar is the crude, profane and offensive way that Nixon spoke on those secret tapes--which shocked Americans when they first heard them.  "No President should be so foul" they said. 

Nixon and his supporters long claimed that he was the victim of a "media conspiracy to destroy him".  He and members of his administration threatened newspapers that published information on Watergate--and reporters from "offending institutions" were frozen out of the White House loop.

And when Nixon finally resigned in 1974 and boarded Marine One to leave the White House, it appeared that he had done irreparable harm to the Republican Party.  They were now the party of corruption and anyone who had supported Nixon was "toxic by association".  An "entire generation" of voters was never going to support a Republican candidate for President ever again.  And yet, six years later Ronald Reagan won the first of his two landslide victories--and the GOP controlled the White House in 22 of the 34-years after Nixon's resignation.

While many of us may weep for the future of the country this year, we can find some solace in knowing it has been this bad before.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Effect of Dangerous Rhetoric

Rhetoric is a staple of political campaigning.  Convincing people that you stand for something that you don't actually believe yourself is an art form.  But this year's election cycle features more dangerous rhetoric than I can ever remember--and the effect of all of that dangerous rhetoric is starting to come home to roost.

In just the last couple of days the FBI arrested three men in the Kansas City area who were plotting an attack on Muslims in that area.  The men were part of a "militia" that professes to believe in "sovereign citizens" and is "anti-immigrant".  Now where would these men have been hearing that message the last year or so?

And then over the weekend, a Republican party field office in North Carolina was fire-bombed.  Photos from the scene show the phrase "Nazi Republicans Leave Town" was spray painted on the side of the building.  Now who has been using those types of phrases lately?

Add to that a story about how CNN and NBC are providing private security for their reporters covering Donald Trump campaign rallies.  The move comes as attendees yell threats and throw things at the media areas during every campaign stop.  Now why would those people be doing that?

And then you have Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke encouraging people to "take up pitchforks and torches" if Donald Trump doesn't win the election.  I can't help but think of the end of Frankenstein as bloodthirsty mobs take to the streets intent upon "destroying the monster".  Now when have we as a country ever reacted to an election like that before?

Plus, you've got election officials across the country having to defend the security and accuracy of the process--because a growing percentage of the population believes the vote is "rigged"--or that Russian hackers are going to be able to change the results without anyone noticing.  Now why would people suddenly doubt this previously-trusted process?

For years, we have collectively decried the deterioration of political discourse in this country.  But that was based on attack ads that painted each candidate in every race as the "Worst Human On The Face Of The Earth--so vote for the other person".  But the rhetoric in this election has become so vitriolic--and has spread far beyond targeting individual candidates that it threatens public safety and innocent lives. 

I would hope that eventually "cooler heads will prevail"--but in this election, that appears highly unlikely

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child

During her time as First Lady, Hillary Clinton wrote a book called It Takes a Village.  The title came from what she claimed was an "African saying" that "it takes a village to raise a child" (which no one has actually been able to verify).  In the book she espoused the liberal belief that children can only be successful in life if they are immersed in government-run programs from the day of their birth that dictate their day care, nuitrition, how they learn to read, what they see on TV, how they learn math, how they learn about sex and gender, what bathrooms they can use and revised versions of our country's history.  Meanwhile, the rest of "the village" is only expected to foot the bill for all of these programs.

One area where it does not "take a village to raise a child" is the holding of children responsible for their choices and actions.  The latest example of that is Todd Kennedy--a volunteer grade school football coach in Connecticut--who made a player on his team run laps because he bullied some of his teammates.  Kennedy says he made it clear to the team early in the season that he would not tolerate bullying--and after kids continued to complain about one of the players--he made that kid run around the field a few times.  A few days later, the parent council that oversaw the football league fired him.  In true chicken-bleep form, members of that committee have refused to comment on the firing or to provide any explanation for their actions.

Since I come from a generation of adults that are independent and have self-worth built upon overcoming challenges and being allowed to fail or to be embarrassed every once in a while--instead of just being told every minute of every day how "great" and how "special" you are--I would like to applaud Coach Kennedy for sending two strong messages to the members of his team: 1--That bullying will not be tolerated and 2--You will be held accountable for your actions--and that accountability will take place in full view of your peers.

Since the football committee won't comment on Kennedy's firing, we can't know for sure their reasoning.  But I'd be willing to bet that if the coach had skipped practicing one day and just had the kids sit in a big circle and "share their feelings"--instead of holding a misbehaving child accountable for all of five minutes--he would have been well on his way to "Coach of the Year" in the league--instead of taking his own two kids to a different league and team.

I guess "the village" has spoken.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Forbidden Fruit

Nothing captures the absurdity of the 2016 Presidential election like the WikiLeaks scandal.  The so-called "freedom of information" website is releasing a series of purported emails from the chairman of Hillary Clinton's campaign this month--and they include information you would expect: the Clinton campaign worked with the Democratic National Committee to torpedo Bernie Sanders' campaign, Clinton promised open borders and unfettered trade to the Wall Street firms that paid her millions of dollars for speeches, the Clinton campaign has reporters at most of the networks and several major websites on call to do "sympathetic" stories for them whenever their candidate was hit hard by real journalism, and that Chelsea Clinton was the only one concerned about the access given to donors to the family foundation.

You would think that everybody and their brother in the press and at Republican national headquarters would be reading these emails verbatim at the top of their lungs to anyone who will listen--but these are actually ill-gotten gains.  The hacking was likely done by state-sponsored Russians.  The State Department has issued a statement asking media outlets not to use anything from the WikiLeaks site, as it believes this is a coordinated attempt by Vladimir Putin to influence the Presidential election.

So to go around trumpeting the not-really-that-surprising "revelations" in the Clinton campaign emails equates to literally aiding the enemy--which makes Donald Trump's use of the "facts" contained in the emails (some of which have been proven to be fake, by the way) almost treasonous and actually makes the Russian subterfuge effective.  And if the Russian hackers can get into the Clinton campaign system, you know full well that they can get into sensitive Republican correspondences--and the Trump campaign too.  Although, the Trump emails are likely all "Who can we totally alienate today?" and the GOP emails are along the lines of "Has anyone considered a name change for the party so people no longer think Trump is with us?"

The correct "usage" of the WikiLeaks documents should not be "we have 'proof' that Clinton is a two-faced liar!" (like that will sway any voters now).  Instead, their acquisition by the Russians should be held up as an example of the complete and utter failure of the "Reset With Russia" diplomatic effort spearheaded by Clinton herself while Secretary of State.  Remember, we were going to work with Vladimir Putin to reduce his influence in Europe, to get him on our side as an ally in the fight against Islamic Terrorism and to put an end to state-sponsored hacking?  Instead, you have a despot who is so emboldened by American weakness that his troops are in Ukraine, his jet fighters are killing those trying to defeat ISIS in Syria and by all accounts, his hackers are brainwashing a Presidential candidate and his legion of gullible followers--all of whom are more than willing to take a bite of the forbidden fruit.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

It's Too Late Now

My lovely wife was really worked up about the Presidential election last night.  She is exasperated that these are the only two people we have to choose from--and she is frustrated that regardless of who wins--we as a country end up losing.  I told her that she should have been this fired up about politics a long time ago, if she hoped to see better candidates now.

One of the biggest drawbacks to the now 2-year Presidential election cycle is that for about 90% of that time, nobody really cares.  It's only the party insiders and zealots that are really paying attention and putting in any work.  Can you name all of the Republican candidates that took part in pre-primary debates on the news channels back in August of 2015?  I don't blame you if you can't--there were twelve people on stage and I think there may have been a "preliminary debate" before that with four of five more candidates.  But who was actually thinking about this election back then?

Yes, the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary got plenty of hype in January and February of this year--but do you remember who won them in each party?  Neither of the candidates that won the Wisconsin primary in April are on the ballot this time around.  How did we "get it so wrong"?  Even the summer conventions fizzled out, as neither party had the contentious delegate battles that would have diverted attention away from vacations, little league games and drinks on the patio in the evening.

Now its four weeks to the election and suddenly everyone is "engaged in the process"--and many don't like the options being presented to them.  Well folks, you needed to be thinking about this stuff 15-months ago.  That is when the seeds of this "Sophie's Choice" now before us were sown.  And they took root and grew while you were paying just passing attention for the last year.

Consider that Robert Kennedy was considered the favorite for the 1968 Democratic nomination before he was shot and killed after the California primary in June.  He had declared his candidacy in March of that same year.  A three month campaign that likely would have defeated Richard Nixon in November and completely changed the course of American history.  An effort like that would be laughed off the national stage today by all of the talking heads on all of the news channels.

So if you really don't like the choice you have to make on November 8th of 2016--might I suggest you get down to work for better choices in 2020?  The start date for that campaign is November 9th of 2016.

Monday, October 10, 2016

We Peaked Too Early

Do you ever get the feeling that politically, the United States peaked too early?  Is it possible that the greatest political minds and leaders vied for the Presidency shortly after the founding of the nation--and that we have seen a long litany of progressively worse and worse candidates seeking the position?

Consider that in the first Presidential election of 1788, voters had to choose between George Washington and John Adams.  It was a contest between the leader of the Revolutionary Army--who was laying down his arms and asking to be democratically elected to lead the country--and one of the greatest statesmen who ever lived.  The two met again in 1792 as well.

The elections of 1796 and 1800 featured contests between Adams and Thomas Jefferson--perhaps the man most responsible for shaping the nation that we have become.  And their campaigns--done mostly through writing and hardly any face to face debate--focused on what role the Federal Government would play in our lives--and what duties were to be conducted by the state governments.

The election of 1808 saw the last two framers of the Constitution battle it out--with James Madison defeating James Monroe.  And in 1820, Monroe defeated John Quincy Adams in the first election where the potential abolition of slavery was a campaign issue.  All elections with profound impact on what the United State of America was going to be going forward--with arguments presented on all sides by educated people.

It must have been more difficult for voters to feel their decisions were as important when the races involved Rutherford B Hayes and Samuel Tilden in 1876.  Or Warren G Harding and James Cox in 1920. Or even George HW Bush and Michael Dukakis in 1988--because none of those candidates challenged our thinking about what it means to be American.  And quite honestly, things were a little boring at those times.  Sure, we've had some bright lights occupy the White House--but none of them were challenged in the election process by those of equal mind and stature.

Now consider the contest before us next month and the absurd discourse that we need to have about these two candidates.  How many Americans in 1788 went to the polls thinking "Well, Washington is the lesser of two evils"?  Was the election of 1808 decided on comments about female body parts?  From the new depths that we reached in last night's debate--it's becoming almost impossible to see the amazing heights we scaled on the start of our American Journey.

Friday, October 7, 2016

On the Long Way Down

Theories abound as to why the NFL is seeing a precipitous drop in ratings this season.  Some blame the player protests during the National Anthem.  Some think that it is due to the election and debates being scheduled on game days.  Some believe it is backlash for Tom Brady's suspension for Deflate-gate.  And some point to the non-TV ways to watch the games now--which wouldn't be counted by Nielsen ratings.

While all of those may contribute in small ways to a ratings dip, I like to think that the more Americans are exposed to the modern NFL, the more they realize it's a lousy product.  All you had to do was try to watch last night's game between Arizona and San Francisco to figure out that quarterbacking in the league has never been worse.  And yet, coaches keep going with offensive systems that require the quarterback to carry the load--dooming us to games featuring 12-punts in the first half.  When you consider that there are really only seven or eight QB's in the league right now that would rank as "above average" in historical comparison--that means a whole lot of crappy games--just like America "enjoyed" last night.

That's not to say that there weren't bad teams, bad quarterbacks and bad games in the 1970's and 80's--when football was at its best in terms of quality of play.  But back then, Arizona-San Francisco would have just been a score on the "Ten Minute Ticker", or a box score in the Monday newspaper--and maybe one play from the game would be featured in Howard Cosell's halftime highlight package during Monday Night Football.  It would not have been a "primetime matchup".  There was no Red Zone Channel to switch to it if either team had actually made it across midfield in the first half.  And ESPN wouldn't have a five minute highlight package to play all night and the next day.

And you cannot underestimate the impact fantasy sports has on the NFL.  As you can tell by rules that only benefit scoring, the league has sold it's soul to the nerds that play in four fantasy leagues and bet weekly in Draft Kings.  Fantasy sports used to mean that you would watch stink-bomb games because "your quarterback" or "your receiver" were playing--and you wanted to see if they were scoring points.  But as I witnessed in the stands at the 16th green at the Ryder Cup last Sunday, everyone now gets those stats sent as "alerts" to their smartphones.  That means no more watching Blaine Gabbert throw nine consecutive incomplete passes just to know if Larry Fitzgerald caught a touchdown.

Will the NFL have to worry about their ratings falling to the level of Women's World Cup qualifying matches?  No.  But unless someone in the tower in New York takes a look at the product  on the field instead of all the billboards and TV ads surrounding the games--more and more viewers will start tuning out.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Begun the Clown War Has

Forget ISIS, hurricanes or Russian hackers, the greatest threat facing our nation today is creepy clowns.  Across the country, people are reporting guys dressed up as scary clowns (yes, I realize that is being redundant, as all clowns are scary and creepy) stalking neighborhoods.  Some clowns are trying to lure children into the woods with offers of money.  Some clowns are peering into people's windows.  Some carry weapons, some are covered in fake blood.  Nobody seems to know exactly why creepy clowns are the hot thing right now--but I do know how to put an end to it: justify the killing of said clowns as an act of self-defense.

If we are allowed to shoot wild animals in our backyards out of fear they may attack us.  If elderly women can gun down people trying to break into their homes.  If police officers are allowed to assume that all black males are armed and looking to kill them--then the rest of us should be able to kill any clown that scares us.

I can pretty much guarantee that it will take just one justified clown killing to put an end to this national trend.  It doesn't matter what perverse pleasure you derive from dressing up in a jumper, putting on Kabuki makeup and donning a rainbow-color wig, once you find out that it is open season on you--those urges will likely go away.  Might I consider learning how to play average guitar and join a KISS cover band instead (that will certainly give you a better chance of scoring with the ladies as well)?

There is no greater justification for clownicide than former serial killer John Wayne Gacy.

Before killing dozens of young men and keeping their bodies in the crawl space under his house, Gacy worked part-time as "Pogo the Clown"--terrorizing children at fundraisers and birthday parties.  There is no proof that Gacy donned his makeup and jumper during the murders of his victims--but you really can't put that outside the realm of possibility.  Just imagine how many lives could have been saved if a fearful adult who spotted "Pogo" had been allowed to take him down before he acted on his homicidal desires.
So the time has come for America to take matters into it's own hands.  If you see a creepy clown--or any clown for that matter--in your neighborhood don't drive away from the suspect.  Instead, head directly at them--at a high rate of speed--and run them down like a rabid dog in the road.  Then back up and run over them again--just to make sure they are really dead.  THEN call police and tell them that you spotted the evil creature and feared for your life.  Believe me, a jury of your peers won't even have to go into deliberations before they acquit you.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

She's Not Really a Follower

The main selling point that Hillary Clinton has been pushing for all of those young voters that supported President Obama in the past two elections has been that she will "continue his legacy" if they vote for her.  And while polls show those young voters aren't buying it, you really have to wonder if she is the type that is going to continue down a path set by someone else.  You don't establish your "own legacy" by just doing what the guy before you was doing--and so Mrs Clinton has to veer away from what President Obama has done in order to be seen as "her own woman". 

Former President Bill Clinton is already laying the groundwork for that effort.  This week he took the Affordable Care Act to task calling it the "craziest thing in the world"--and citing the 50% premium increases that people enrolled in the state-run health insurance exchanges will be facing next year as "proof" that it isn't working.  (In Minnesota, the state performed a world-class "news dump" of that information just before 5:00 on a Friday afternoon--ensuring little media coverage of the announcement).  Clinton also called "ObamaCare" bad for small businesses.

Now before you go calling Bill Clinton a "neo-Conservative", consider that he has to make "ObamaCare" look as bad as possible now--so that version 2.0: "HillaryCare" is seen as this great improvement upon a rudimentary system set up by her predecessor.  In reality, it will be another step in the "failure by design" scheme intended to establish government-run health care so that we can all enjoy the quality of such services as seen in the Veterans Administration health care system.

There may be some Obama Administration legacies that Mrs Clinton will continue--like killing American citizens abroad through the use of drone strikes.  Julian Assange claims in a WikiLeaks release that Clinton asked if the US couldn't just "drone him" while he was releasing classified and sensitive documents--and being hailed as a national hero by the Left.  Clinton says that if she actually said that--she was just joking (like Donald Trump taking away the guns of Clinton's security detail--right?)
While some Republicans try to sway voters that electing Hillary Clinton "will be a third term for Barack Obama"--don't believe it.  This is a shrewd, manipulative candidate who doesn't want to share credit with anyone--and she will do everything she can to NOT be Barack Obama--whether it be good or bad for the country.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Death of the Classics

The Sunday edition of the St Paul Pioneer Press had a very interesting article on theater and opera companies struggling to find classic musicals and plays that they can present in these "modern times".  It's not like South Pacific, The Taming of the Shrew or the works of Wagner are technically difficult to produce or incredibly expensive to stage.  The problem is that nearly every classic piece of performance art contains some element that will "offend" someone in our ultra-sensitive society.

Plays and operas that for centuries were hailed at the high points of human culture, creativity and emotion now contain characters or themes that are "socially unacceptable"--according to the very narrow lens by which we now judge all things.  Greedy Jews, uneducated "native peoples", effeminate gay men, white colonialism and even characters in drag are considered too "toxic" to be presented in modern performances.

And it's not just the theater that suffers.  Hundreds of classic novels are being purged from reading lists for students of all ages.  Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer are out due to the use of language pertaining to African-Americans at the time of their writing--and reference to slavery.  Heart of Darkness is unacceptable for portrayals of African cultures and white domination of said cultures.  Even the works of Shakespeare can not be presented to modern youth because Romeo and Juliet features multiple teen suicides that could "trigger" those who are being bullied or have lost someone to suicide already (although the implication of underage kids having sex is "okay").

Beloit College always makes a big deal about the list they publish for their staff every fall that lists all of the things that incoming freshman would have never experienced in their lifetimes--like not having IPhones, or having to set a VCR or using a rotary phone.  Perhaps the college should start working on lists for the rest of us detailing the classic literature, film, stage production and even songs that today's college graduates have been "shielded from" in order to protect their fragile self-esteem.