Monday, June 26, 2017

No Message

The relationship between the Trump Administration and the media reached a ridiculous new low last week when TV cameras were banned from the daily White House briefing.  CNN actually brought in a sketch artist to capture Press Secretary Sean Spicer's image during the conference--like it was some Federal court hearing or a Renaissance-era drawing of a king and his court.  Apparently, President Trump is adopting the attitude that if it didn't happen on TV, you can't prove it happened at all.

The camera ban and limited media availability for the President himself is part of a plan to "control the message".  Trump believes that important Presidential statements can made through Twitter posts--his personal one, not the @POTUS government account--where follow up is impossible--and anything proven to be factually incorrect or considered inappropriate can just be deleted (although a billion people will have screen shots of it).

Of course, when the message is as wildly inconsistent as it has been during this administration, the format of its release really doesn't matter.  How many times has the President sent out his Cabinet members, press folks or other subordinates to provide some talking points to the press only to have Trump himself completely contradict them in a speech, a tweet or an interview with Fox News? 

And the President is doing an excellent job of contradicting himself on an almost daily basis.  The best example of that so far has been his claim that there might be tapes of his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey, only to deny that he has ever recorded anything in the Oval Office.  The President can't blame the media for "misquoting" him or "taking statements out of context" as Trump was pretty clear in what he said both times.

Perhaps President Trump should be brushing up on the history of his office--and pay particularly close attention to the term of Calvin Coolidge.  Coolidge was known as "Silent Cal" for the few things he had to say about anything even while in the Oval Office.  the most famous example of that was when he was seated next to a woman at a state dinner and she wanted to make a bet that she could get him to say more than three words.  His reply: "You lose". 

Friday, June 23, 2017

An Unwelcome Addition

The WIAA Board of Control has decided to add a shot clock to high school basketball in Wisconsin starting in 2019.  As an official, a broadcaster and a fan of high school hoops, I am vehemently opposed to this measure.

From the standpoint of an official, this is one more thing that can lead to errors and controversy in a game.  Timing issues are the biggest headache that we deal with in high school games right now.  Scoring table personnel failing to start the clock properly or not stopping it quickly enough is common.  Now another timer will be added to the table to run the shot clock--and that person will have to make dozens of split-second decisions every game, determining if a shot struck the rim and resetting the clock.  And, that is more buzzer-beaters that those of us on the floor need call.  Remember, we don't have the advantage of instant replay like college hoops or the NBA to review if a shot was off a shooter's fingertips as the shot clock expired or if a ball may have just nicked the rim to cause a reset.

From the standpoint of a broadcaster, the shot clock negates the opportunity for a team with lesser talent to limit possessions in a game.  That means fewer competitive contests and not as many upsets.  Plus, delays to determine if the shot clock was reset properly--or malfunctions of the shot clock--make for a very choppy broadcast.

And finally as a fan, I don't see the need for a shot clock at the high school level.  Stalling is not that big a problem anymore.  And if a team decides to hold the ball, then its opponent should come out and defend them in the entire half-court.  There is a five-second closely-guarded rule, make the other team run some semblance of an offense--or don't complain about a stall.  Add to that the increase in the number of rushed shots just to beat a made up deadline and you get even less offensive efficiency in a game where "work the ball until you get a good shot" has been replaced with "take the first open three you can get".

One other element to consider is that this adds more expense to the operation of high school sports.  Football has a play clock, but schools are not required to have it displayed on the field.  The Back Judge keeps the time, and uses arm motions to alert the offense when it has five seconds left to snap the ball.  In basketball, the shot clock will have in sight of the players.  That means the purchase of two more electronic displays and a system to run them.  Plus, not all basket supports are standardized in high school--meaning those clocks may not all fit above the backboard.  Do they go on the wall?  On the floor behind the end line?  Next to the main scoreboards?

Adding a shot clock to high school basketball is a solution in search of a problem--and it creates more problems than it could ever hope to fix.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Maintaining Separation

I wasn't able to tune into much news yesterday so I missed the excuses Democrats had for losing another special election for Congress.  Was it Russian hacking that cost Jon Ossoff the race in the sixth district?  Or was it gerrymandering this time?  Was voter ID requirements the reason so few Democratic voters turned out?  Did the county clerks refuse to hold early voting office hours on Sundays?  I bet the FBI director said something suspicious about Ossoff a week before the election and that swung public sentiment against him.

The sixth congressional race was the latest in a series of "referenda on Donald Trump" that Democrats swore was going to prove that the nation had turned against Republicans--and that a "wave election" is coming in 2018--where they would retake control of Congress.  And yet, in four special elections to fill seats vacated by Trump administration appointees, Republicans won them all.

Granted, the margins of victory in some of them were smaller than those seen by the President in those same districts just last fall.  But in Georgia, Trump won the district by a scant one-percentage point.  Karen Handel--who had lost a number of statewide races in the past--tripled that margin in her win Tuesday.  That proved Republicans dis-satisfied with their choice for President in 2016 still are not willing to jump ship to a Democrat in any other race.

And that is the delicate balancing act that Republicans at all levels of politics have to continue to maintain for the next three-and-a-half years.  How to stay true to the party's core values--while the tweeting madman in the White House tries to carry the banner for the same party while veering from one extreme to the next.  So far, voters are seeing that effort being made.

The Ossoff loss also points to Democrats' biggest internal challenge to winning back control on some level of government.  Party members' decision to concentrate themselves in urban areas leaves them with few viable candidates to compete in other districts.  Jon Ossoff didn't even live in the sixth district before running for that seat.  He couldn't vote for himself in the "jungle primary" back in April.  Add to that the fact that he is only 30-years old and you can see why voters may have questioned his qualifications for Congress.

The catchphrase for protesters taking part in anti-Trump rallies, protests blocking speakers on college campuses, demanding justice in police-related shootings and at campaign stops for the Democratic challengers in the four special elections so far this year has been "This is what democracy looks like".  But when it comes to winning elections--the actual "democracy" part of democracy--the Democrats still have a long way to go.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bro Country USA

Country USA kicks off in Oshkosh today.  There will be no shortage of cowboy boots, inappropriately short jean shorts, cowboy hats, backwards trucker hats, beer, Confederate flag images, giant mugs filled with double-strength mixed drinks and, of course, mud.  But one thing that will be in very short supply is female artists.

A cursory look at the lineup for the five nights of Country USA shows just three female acts for the entire week--and they are all early in the lineup on those night.  There are no female headliners.  It is clear that "Bro Country" is the theme at Ford Festival Park this year.  And with that comes a certain "culture" as well.

Listeners will sometimes ask me around this time why every song we play as a lead-in to our stories about country music concerts in the area are about drinking.  The answer to that is quite simple: that's what almost all "Bro Country" songs are about.  A check of the music database from our country sister station shows a litany of titles involving beer, cold ones, party, whiskey, drinkin' and moonshine.  I guess I could go for a change of pace and select from the songs about pickup trucks or sexy women.

Which brings us back to the testosterone-soaked lineup at Country USA.  It looks like there isn't much of a market anymore for the female perspective in country music.  Who wants to hear songs about heartbreak when you are 10-beers into the night and you are trying to hook up with the cutie in the bikini top, Daisy Dukes and cowboy boots? 

The State Patrol has certainly noticed what is on-tap for this year.  They will have extra troopers around the grounds looking for underage drinking and drunk driving.  I bet they are plenty busy the next five nights.

And let's also take a look at the difference between the Billy Joel concert last weekend at Lambeau Field and the country concerts that preceded it.  Just three people were ejected from the stadium last Saturday--and no one was arrested.  The Kenny Chesney-Jason Aldean concert two years earlier resulted in 25-arrests and more than 300-ejections (police were so overwhelmed they stopped counting)--not to mention national attention to the rowdy behavior at the show and damage to the football field.

For decades country music marketed itself as the "wholesome alternative" to hip hop, pop and hard rock.  But it appears that is out the window--and the "Bros" are just getting this party started.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Not Big Enough

In the lead up to the 117th US Open at Erin Hills the key word was "big".  It's a big course with big fairways, big greens, big bunkers, big crowds, big wind, big fescue areas, etc, etc.  Only the big hitters would have a chance there.  The scores would be big and it would be a big hit in the end.  But as it turned out, Erin Hills wasn't big enough.

Outside of the ropes, the US Open at Erin Hills was good.  The blimp crash wasn't the fault of anyone associated with the tournament.  The E Coli contaminated water was replaced quickly and there were no reports of any outbreak of stomach ailments.  The death of a spectator actually turned out to be quite a heartwarming story.  Transporting fans from parking lots 20-minutes away went well and the sheer size of the property kept crowding on most holes to a minimum.  The few complaints I heard were about concession stands running out of popular food items and fans being kept farther away from the action due to the width of the fairways and hazards.

But ultimately, the "success" of a tournament lies in what happens inside the ropes--and unfortunately this weekend was more Greater Milwaukee Open than US Open.  In the space of four days, we saw new tournament records for lowest first round score, lowest score in any round, lowest winning score relative to par, the most players double digits under par and the most players overall under par for a US Open.  The players proved that you could have the longest course in the history of the event--but if you give them a country mile in which to land their drives, they are still going to eat the place up.

There were factors in play that the USGA could not control.  The winds didn't blow nearly hard enough to affect play until Sunday--and even then, winner Brooks Keopka shot five-under.  Rain throughout the week made the greens soft--allowing players to shoot right at the pins and get their balls to stick--instead of bouncing and rolling through like they do in most US Opens.  And we realized an unfortunate reality, there is no such thing as a course long enough to challenge today's players anymore.  The second longest hole in US Open history--the 672-yard par 5 18th--was the easiest hole in terms of scoring average on Sunday. 

Many of the biggest names in golf--including the great Jack Nicklaus--had expressed their displeasure with the USGA bringing the Open to a new, wide-open course like Erin Hills.  They predicted scores that would be too low and just not enough of a challenge for modern Tour players.  And in the end, those critics were proven right.  Hopefully the fans enjoyed seeing this Open, because I doubt it will be coming back.

Friday, June 16, 2017

One Weird Day

Any time you put on a large event, things that you couldn't possibly anticipate will come up.  But I'm guessing the organizers of the US Open at Erin Hills could not have imagined a weirder first day of competition.

Needless to say, none of us who went to the golf course Thursday expected to end up covering a blimp crash.  When you consider the glacial pace at which a blimp moves, it's hard to imagine a crash is even possible.  I had actually driven under the PenFed blimp on my way into the media parking lot around 11:00 yesterday.  So when my friend Joe texted me in the Media Center 15-minutes later saying everyone had seen the thing fall out of the sky and explode--I thought he was joking.

It was humorous watching the camera guys that were all set up to interview Mequon native Jordan Niebrugge break down their gear and try to figure out how they were going to get back outside the course, find the site of the crash and get footage back to their stations.  And sports guys who thought they were going to be able to kick back and watch a little golf were suddenly pressed into emergency news duty.

So once all of the hubbub about the blimp died down, we found out that there is E Coli in the drinking water at Erin Hills.  The USGA thought that it would go "green" at the US Open and allow people to bring in empty water bottles--and then fill them at free "hydration stations".  Considering how hot it will be this week--and that there is absolutely no shade at Erin Hills, this was almost a humanitarian gesture too.

But testing on the water coming from a well hooked up to one of the stations showed E Coli contamination.  Unfortunately for attendees, they had been drinking from that station since Tuesday.  Now we have to hope that there isn't an outbreak of stomach ailments among those that went to the practice rounds this week.  The USGA is going to hand out free bottled water for the rest of the tournament--but I'd recommend you just drink beer out there--just to be safe.

I'm heading back down to the Open today--hopefully I only have to talk about golf afterwards.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

When the "Victims" Strike Back

A lot of terms were used to describe the man that opened fire on Republicans members of Congress at their baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia on Wednesday.  "Bernie Sanders supporter", "left wing extremist", "disturbed", and "troubled" were the most common used by those investigating the matter, those who were among the targets and those who know the man.  But I bet that if you asked that guy before he opened fire on that baseball field--and before he was killed by heroic Capitol Police at the scene--he would have told you that he was "a victim".

I'm sure that the shooter was absolutely convinced that his lot in life--unemployed, living out of his van--was the fault of a "system rigged against him".  He had likely heard for years that everything that he didn't have was "stolen from him" by corporations and the rich.  His life would be so much better if the "1% were paying their fair share" and if "corporate loopholes were closed".  It was just a matter of time really, that this man would get fed up with this "oppression" and strike back at those whom had been blamed for creating and maintaining this "unjust system".

But the Congressional baseball shooter is not alone in his victimhood.  I'm sure the UPS driver that opened fire on his co-workers in San Francisco not long after the Virginia incident was a "victim" of some corporate structure that was making him work too hard, for too little pay and to "never get ahead".  And the guy that stabbed the two people to death on the Portland commuter train last month was a "victim" of some "government effort to flood the country with Muslim refugees to establish Sharia Law on white people".  Heck, we can even go back all the way to Columbine, where the school shooters were "victims of bullying and ostracization". 

You can't create a culture of "victimhood" and then be shocked when people take up arms "against their oppressor".  In the wake of yesterday's shootings, everybody on Capitol Hill was saying that "it was time to tone down the political rhetoric".  But honestly, how long do you think it will be before both they and the rest of us begin to point fingers again toward "the rich", "those foreigners", "that corporation", "male privilege", "the other kids" and "the Government" for our problems?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Less Than Compelling

Usually us curmudgeons like to go on and on about how sports, music and movies were better in "our day".  I think that you can add Congressional hearings to that list as well.  That's what I was thinking during both the James Comey and Attorney General Jeff Sessions testimony the last couple of weeks.  While the "regular" networks dumped out of their daytime programming, it proved to be anything but "must see TV".

That's a far cry from the tension of hearings that really did captivate the nation in the past.  Anita Hill's testimony about Clarence Thomas sexually harassing her before he was appointed to the Supreme Court became a national obsession (and spawned a thousand late night jokes about cans of Coca-Cola).  And the eventual denials of those claims by Thomas himself--sweating under the spotlights--was better than any courtroom drama the networks have come up with yet.

Oliver North exploded onto the national scene with his testimony about setting up the transfer of money from the illegal sale of weapons to Iran to help the Contras in Nicaragua--in direct violation of the laws passed by Congress.  Those hearings also showed the President Reagan had very little oversight of members of his administration--but never produced a "smoking gun" connecting his to any orders to set up the arrangement/

Who can forget the McCarthy Army hearings of 1954--which helped establish television as the new source for "breaking news coverage"--as the Wisconsin Senator called in hundreds of high-ranking officials and questioned their loyalty to country and freedom before the cameras.  Of course, his thirst for power exceeded his grasp and he was eventually destroyed on live TV with Joseph Welch's famous line "Have you left no sense of decency?"--a phrase that beats "Lordy, I hope there are tapes" any day.

And speaking of tapes, you also had the Watergate hearings.  This will forever be the high point of Congressional investigations both in terms of impact on the Government--as well as the unbelievable bombshells that came out of them.  None was bigger than Alexander Butterfield testifying that there was a secret voice-recording system in the Oval Office.  That led to reporters literally running out of the chambers to get to the payphones to file a story with their editors.  It also led to the subpoena of those tapes--a legal fight that went all the way to the US Supreme Court and the mysterious 18-and a half minute gap in the tapes where President Nixon was giving the clear go ahead to instigate a coverup of the Watergate break in,

Now THOSE were Congressional hearings worth pre-empting General Hospitel.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Un-settling the Science

While James Comey was sucking up all the oxygen in the room, there was a pretty major science announcement last week.  It turns out that the human species might be much older than we originally thought.  Fossils found in Morocco place our earliest ancestors on the planet as far back as 350-thousand years ago.  Until now, the accepted time period for our evolutionary arrival was about 195-thousand years--in a different part of Africa.

What was neat about the announcement is that it was not immediately shot down by everyone else in the scientific community.  I didn't see a single anthropologist say "the science on our evolution is settled--we are 195-thousand years old and anyone that tries to challenge that is an 'evolutionary denier'".  CNN didn't convene a panel of scientists and "Bill Nye the Science Guy" to discredit the new findings.

Of course, there really isn't a lot of money riding on determining the age of the human species.  The guy who found the fossils and developed the theory won't be getting a Nobel Prize.  He probably won't be making a documentary that will win an Oscar.  Nations with plenty to gain won't be able to use the findings to weaken the economies of larger countries.  There are few investors that stand to make billions from industries related to an older human race.  And no one will be rushing to change textbooks to make sure that children have it drummed into their minds repeatedly that our species is older than we thought it was before last week.

Instead, there will be careful peer review of the findings--and if the facts point to that conclusion--everyone will say 'we were wrong about the age of our species" and accept the new data.  No politics, no profits.  It's a novel approach many like to call the "Scientific Method". 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Open Week

Welcome to US Open week here in Wisconsin.  Many of you will be venturing down to Erin (or Hartford or Richfield--I've seen all three used to describe the location of the course in stories) for practice rounds the next three days--or for the competitive rounds Thursday through Sunday (and possibly Monday--more on that later).  Here are a few tips for those of you not familiar with the course or the tournament.

Don't expect to park anywhere close to the golf course.  Only a couple of two lane, rural roads lead to Erin Hills--and authorities didn't want them choked with traffic for seven straight days.  Therefore, general parking will be located in two spots north and south of the course--and you will get to relive your childhood by riding a shuttle bus about a half-hour back and forth.  It might be a good idea to bring everything you think you might need with you on that first trip--rather than thinking you can just "run back the car real quick".

Don't expect to see Phil Mickelson playing.  Phil needs just a US Open win to complete the career Grand Slam.  But his participation is questionable as his daughter's high school graduation is Thursday in Carlsbad, California and she is giving the commencement speech.  I saw Phil talking on CBS yesterday that he needs a four hour rain delay on Thursday to make his tee time--which is currently scheduled for 3:30 that afternoon.  Phil has the money, maybe he should invest in a time machine if he thinks he could still make it.  Oh, and no--Tiger Woods will not be here either this week.

Don't go to the hill inside the dogleg on hole 8.  That is where I want to station myself for most of the day.  It's the highest point on the golf course and we counted eight different holes you could see clearly from there.  Don't go under the tree to the left of 15 either.  It's the only spot of shade on the golf course and that hole might be played short enough to be driveable one of the days--so I'd like to station myself there as well.

Don't expect to see great scores.  The USGA says every year that they don't care if someone goes low in the US Open.  But then they make every effort to ensure that the golf is more like a death march that a stroll in the park.  The fairways at Erin Hills are 50% wider than average US Open fairways.  Nothing was done to narrow them from what the public has played for years.  But miss the fairway by five yards in either direction and you will have to play from the nastiest fescue rough I have ever seen in my life.  I could advance the ball only ten yards in that stuff when I played there a couple of weeks ago--and it's entirely possible we could see some of the pros completely whiff trying to just punch out.

Don't expect to see a winner crowned on Sunday.  The US Open has never gone more than nine years without requiring a playoff to decide a winner.  It has been nine years since the last US Open playoff.  Because the Open has the best tiebreaker in golf--a full 18-holes on the following Monday, those without weeklong passes may end up watching things wrap up on TV a week from today.

And finally, don't expect to play Erin Hills any time soon after the tournament.  My caddie last month told me that they have already booked 2000 more tee times for this year than they did all of last year--and the course wasn't even open for public play before the Open.  There will likely be groups hustling to finish their rounds before dark every day out there the rest of the year.  Oh, and the price is going up another 75-dollars for a round now that it is a "former US Open Host".

It's going to be hot.  It's going to be windy.  It's going to be expensive.  But it should be fun this week at Erin Hills.

Friday, June 9, 2017

What Are We Opposing Again?

There was a great article on The Federalist website last week about how the Trump administration has given birth to so many "movements" in Washington and throughout politics that it's becoming impossible to figure out who is on what "team" anymore. 

For starters, you have the "Trumpers"--the 23-percent or so of Americans that got the President elected and who still support him--and who likely believe that he is the "victim" of the greatest political witch hunt in history.  Then you have the Anti-Trump camp.  They are the ones who believe that the President can do absolutely nothing right and that all of his proposals must be opposed in the most vocal way possible.  Every Democrat and celebrity would fall into this category.

The rise of the "Anti-Trump" movement then birthed the "Anti-Anti-Trump" group.  This is the safe haven for conservatives and Republicans that don't like Trump either--but who don't want liberal ideologies normalized either.  The "Anti-Anti-Trumpers" don't directly criticize the President--but instead take those who are criticizing him to task for either the tone of their message, the conspiracy theories they expound or the ludicrous alternatives they propose.  A lot of GOP members of Congress and pretty much everybody at Fox News Channel are on this "team".

When the "Anti-Anti-Trump" campaign started making itself heard, those on the left had to fight back with their own counter-movement--giving birth to the "Anti-Anti-Anti-Trump" group.  These are the folks that accuse those attacking Trump's attackers of being "supporters" of the President by proxy.  To them, a lack of full denouncement of everything coming out of the White House is to be considered tacit support for what is going on--and that too must be opposed at all costs.  MSNBC is leading the charge for this group.

And that has now brought us to the rise of the "Anti-Anti-Anti-Anti-Trump" campaign--which again are people not enthused with the behavior and leadership style of the President, but who realize that it is possible to oppose those who oppose him--without supporting him in any way shape or form.  This is the realm of the deeper political thinkers who don't boil down all politics to just sound bites and news channel panels speaking party talking points over and over and over again.

Can we extend this out even further?  Can there be an "Anti-Anti-Anti-Anti-Anti-Trump" movement?  By that point you'd almost be reaching calls for taking up arms against not just the President, but his supporters, the people who oppose his opposition, and those who think the opposition-opposers can still not support the President.  And if that happened, you would need a lot of different army colors just to tell everyone apart on the battlefield.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

My wife and I are going through all of the boxes in our basement in preparation for a rummage sale--and to just get rid of a bunch of stuff that we haven't looked at in ages.  We are nowhere near the kinds of messes you see on Hoarders but there are some things that are very hard to get rid of--even if they serve no meaningful purpose anymore.

Let me first say that NONE of my sports trophies will ever leave the Man Cave.  Those were all earned by being on winning teams--not like the participation trophies that clutter the rooms of today's kids.  If I'm ever put in an assisted living facility or a nursing home, I want all of those surrounding my deathbed too.  After I'm gone, THEN you can throw them away.

What's actually been the hardest to part with has been books.  For some reason, we believe that books hold some intrinsic value that should never warrant being thrown in the trash or the recycling bin.  Some you just like to have on the shelf to make yourself look intelligent.  I've got several large history volumes and a bunch of Russian literary classics like that.  Some of my books are autographed or inscribed by the author or the athlete that wrote them--and I think that makes them even more valuable.  A few I bought overseas and I've never seen them in bookstores here--so I think they are somehow "rare" and might be worth big bucks some day.

But even the most ragged-eared paperback is difficult to throw in the trash.  "Some kid might want a low-cost copy of Hamlet or Tom Sawyer for a school reading assignment" I think, as I put the 35-year old edition in the "donate" box.  I should realize that kids no longer read "the classics" because they were all written by white people about white people and therefore are not "inclusive enough" for today's classroom.  I'd probably be doing society a favor by burning those books--especially The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn--in the street to show how "tolerant" I am.

I know that most kids grew up reading their Harry Potter books in actual print form--but the Kindle and tablet computers continues to encroach upon the printed words reach in society.  Perhaps a middle-aged man 30-years from now will be struggling with the decision to delete downloads from his adolescence because his wife wants more memory space.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Name Game

I know that we are all excited to hear what the name of the new Milwaukee Bucks G-League team in Oshkosh is going to be—but expect to be a bit disappointed.  Those of you that worked so hard on alliterative names like the Oshkosh Osprey or the Oshkosh Otters—or those that tried to go Hip Hop Cool with something like the O-Town Flyers—you never had a chance to win.  You see, there is no way the name of this team is going to include “Oshkosh”.

For starters “Oshkosh” conjures up an immediate “small town” reaction.  And compared to the other host cities in the league, we certainly are.  While it may be quaint, that is not how the G-League wants to market itself—as some third rate minor league with teams in towns you never heard of.  What’s more, when fans in other cities hear “Oshkosh” they immediately assume that the team is going to come out in blue and white striped bib overalls.

There is a local reason for foregoing “Oshkosh” in the team name—and that is the incredible parochialism that still exists in this area.  I’ve heard from so many local business owners that “people in Fond du Lac and Appleton don’t drive to Oshkosh for anything”.  And I tend to agree.  When I do ask folks in Appleton or Fondy if there is a place they like to eat in Oshkosh, they almost always say “I don’t think we’ve ever gone there to eat”. 

And that is why the name unveiled on Friday will almost certainly use the more-generic “Fox Valley” and not “Oshkosh”.  Since its inception, the group behind the team has called it “Fox Valley Basketball” because they know there will be more buy in by taking a regional approach—instead of one specific city.  Will it convince people from Appleton and Kimberly and Kaukauna to come to Oshkosh to watch games on a regular basis?  We’ll see.  Hopefully they won’t be irritated by the countless roundabouts and east-west streets that require you to zig-zag at every intersection because of the left-turn lanes.

Or the team may go with the even more generic “Wisconsin” title.  It has certainly worked for the baseball Timber Rattlers—who left the “Appleton” designation behind when they moved to their nice stadium along Interstate 41 with relatively easy access.  You may have noticed that the Bucks themselves have been hitting the “Wisconsin’s Team” promotional message the last couple of years—hoping to convince outstate folks that absolutely refuse to venture into downtown Milwaukee to give them a chance.  They even have a secondary logo with the word “Bucks” across an outline of the state.

So don’t take it personally when the team sends out the emails to those that registered on their website—rather than holding a splashy press conference for the media to cover and promote—and “Oshkosh” is nowhere to be found. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Apparently They Don't Know

I was shocked to hear last week that the University of Wisconsin system is seeing an increase in applications from international students.  Overseas applications are up 14-percent this year--which is a sharp departure from the narrative that we hear when it comes to the UW System and society in general.

I mean, the kids hoping to attend school here must not know about the "devastating impact" Governor Scott Walker's budget cuts are having on the UW.  They are apparently unaware that they will be arriving to a university that is " a shell of its former self"--and that their professors will have to spend more time teaching them in the classroom than taking time off to write books or do their "research".  Maybe the state Democratic Party needs to send their press releases to the schools in these other countries to warn the kids thinking about a UW education.

And don't these students know that the United States is full of xenophobic racists?  Aren't they afraid that Ann Coulter or Ben Shapiro (people they have never heard of) might come to the campus to speak about enforcing immigration laws (in events that those foreign students wouldn't even know were being held--until activist student groups block entry to the lecture hall to those who want to attend and then clash with campus police turning it into a major news story)?  Perhaps MSNBC isn't carried on the satellite or cable TV services in those other countries.

Let's not forget that there are lawmakers that want to allow concealed guns on campus too.  How could those students coming from countries where private gun ownership is expressly banned or the government keeps lists of those that own guns possibly feel safe knowing that anyone in their classroom or dorm has a firearm?  Wouldn't they want to stay in all of those other countries where everyone dies a peaceful death and police with batons are required to take on armed terrorists?

But what baffles me the most is why these kids would want to spend tens of thousands of dollars to get their college degrees here?  Don't they know it's a "basic human right" to get free secondary education?  Some of these applicants live in countries where all they have to do is show up asking to take classes and they won't be charged a Euro--that must make it the best possible education you can get, right?  Apparently, Bernie Sanders' speeches don't get as much attention over there as they did here for awhile.

So welcome international students to one of our UW campuses.  This is sure to be the worst experience of your life--which is why so many others want to share it as well.

Monday, June 5, 2017

They Still Won't Listen

Before they decided to stick with the same leadership that got them into the smallest minority in Legislative representation in 60-years and a loss in the race for President for the first time in 32-years, Wisconsin Democrats talked a lot about "listening to people" in the run up to their state convention over the weekend.  Glendale Mayor Bryan Kennedy was the most vocal of the Chairperson candidates saying that party members had to actually go out to areas where the Democrats have suffered the greatest losses and talk to those people about what has turned them off to voting Democrat.  That strategy was rejected by delegates--who decided to keep Martha Lanning as Chair--and her strategy of "blame everyone else for our problems".

While Mayor Kennedy may have had good intentions in trying outreach to disaffected voters across the state--and not just serving up platitudes for the hard-core liberals of Dane and Milwaukee counties--nobody in his party is interested in hearing what the majority of Wisconsin residents elsewhere have to say.  And I know that by the efforts that have been put in by liberals to discredit the beliefs and opinions of anyone not involved in their groupthink.

One of the main strategies of the Left in recent years has been to control the language of all debates on issues.  "Debates" may actually be an exaggeration of common political discourse today--as liberals have developed one- or two-word 'shut downs" of any opposing views.  Personally, I speak from a position of "white privilege" in the discussion of any and all social matters.  My thoughts on gender issues are discredited by "male privilege".  My believe in enforcement of immigration laws is "racism".  My desire to fight terrorism is "Islamophobia".  Questioning tax increases, student loan forgiveness, using health insurance as a subsidy program and myriad other economic issues is just plain "greed".

So why would the party that his built its entire platform on discrediting all beliefs other than those held by its most hard-core members want to actually come out and talk to people like me?  Especially when it feels so much better to just lecture us on our "ignorance and intolerance".  I'd love to have a good old-fashioned conversation about topics--instead of being "shut down" after two sentences.  I really enjoy watching our recent college graduates struggle to tell me what they consider to be the ideal global mean temperature to maintain as part of our "climate change prevention efforts".  Or to have people that work in education fumble to come up with the spending per pupil level that would "fix our schools".  Or to help a "concerned citizen" realize that the taxes that they raised to pay for "health care for all" they had already spent on "free college education for all" just a few sentences ago.

But alas, the idea of "listen to the people" was rejected in Madison over the weekend.  I guess they are just going to try "it's the white guy's fault" for another election cycle.

Friday, June 2, 2017

If You Need an Accord, Buy a Honda

Remember a couple of years ago when members of the Oshkosh Common Council wanted to spend around 20-thousand dollars to have the new City Garage LEED certified?  They thought it was sooooo important to have a certificate saying their new building was as "green" as possible.  Fortunately, the majority of the Council rejected the waste of taxpayer dollars. 

I did a My Two Cents back then comparing the debate to a scene from the movie Searching For Bobby Fischer in which the chess prodigy Max becomes petulant because his teacher won't give him a Grandmaster Certificate.  The teacher then produces hundreds of certificates and throws then all over the table and the floor to prove a point to Max: it's not the certificate that's important--it's actually doing the work that counts.  And whether the building was LEED Certified or not--it was still going to be just as "eco-friendly".

I flashed back to that Two Cents yesterday as I heard the Climate Alarmists expressing their anger and despair after President Trump announced that he is "withdrawing" from the Paris Climate Accord.  That announcement yesterday is "ceremonial" at best.  You see, the Paris Climate Accord (and it is an "accord" not a treaty because treaties require actual Senate approval here in the US and President Obama knew there was no way such an agreement was ever going to be approved) is strictly voluntary.  Each country set its own "goals" for carbon reduction and there was not a "global climate police force" that would be able to enforce it.  President Trump could have just as easily "stayed in" the Accord but just announced that the new US goals are going to be zero percent reductions in carbon emissions for the next ten years--and we would still be "in compliance".  Or he could have made no effort to actually meet the reductions that President Obama promised--and again, we would still be one of the "190 countries that belong".

When they weren't wiping their tears away or lashing themselves with switches, a number of Mayors and Governors took to social media yesterday to say that they were "still going to abide by the Paris Accord despite what the President says".  And you know what?  They have every right to!  Unlike enforcement of illegal immigration laws, there is nothing on the books that says cities and states cant' establish their own carbon emission standards.  In his speech yesterday, the President didn't say that he was going to require state and cities to build coal-fired power plants or drill for oil or buy diesel buses.

Califorinia always brags about how they have the "seventh largest economy in the world".  If their
governor and their mayors all want to keep with renewable energy production goals, they alone should provide a great market for all of the renewable energy firms that now face a loss of substantial government subsidies (which is really all those on the left cared about yesterday).  And those cities and states can tax their own residents to subsidize any clean industries that want to locate there.

The United States can still easily abide by the terms of the Paris Climate Accord without actually being a part of the Paris Climate Accord (and paying a billion dollars to the unaccountable "Green Fund").  It's just a piece of paper--not the actual actions that so many are apparently still willing to take.  If those folks need an Accord so bad--maybe they should visit their local Honda dealer and buy one.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends

As a public service, I'd like to remind you that the NBA Playoffs are still going on.  You probably needed that reminder since it has been a week since anybody has played a game.  I guess the two teams involved in the Finals are to blame for that.  Golden State swept San Antonio in the Western Conference Finals--so they haven't played in 8-days.  Cleveland beat Boston in the East in five games--leaving them with nothing to do for 7-days.  You would think that the NBA would move up the start of the Finals so that both teams could stay sharp and maintain momentum--but ABC gets the final say on scheduling matters now--and they wanted a specific date to promote for the start of the Finals and June 1st became the "set in stone" day.

Of course, it's not like the two teams are going to face a grueling schedule now that the series is finally getting underway.  After tonight's game one, there will be two off days before game two is played on Sunday night.  That will be followed by two more days off as the series shifts to Cleveland for game three next Wednesday.  That makes me wonder if the teams are traveling by covered wagon or steam train that they need two days to get from Oakland to Cleveland.

Hopefully the Cavs and Warriors can handle just one day off between games three and four--which is scheduled for next Friday.  Fortunately, they won't have to worry about playing any of next weekend--those are "travel days" as the series heads back to Oakland--again by mule team.  Game five is followed by two off days again--as is game six.  That means game seven--if necessary (and knowing the NBA's reputation for "controlling the action", it likely will be)--will be played on Sunday, June 18th.

To put that into perspective, it will take 18-days to play just seven games of a championship series.  The last Summer Olympics in Rio, Brazil took just 16-days to complete competition in hundreds of sports.  When your championship takes longer to play than the Olympics, you may want to reconsider how you are scheduling your games.

Now, I probably won't watch much of the Finals--because most of the games will tip off at 8:00 our time--and I'm usually in bed less than an hour after that.  That's a 9:00 start time for the East Coast--meaning kids still in school won't see much of those contests either.  That's a great way to build your sport's popularity!  But it will still affect me because the convoluted schedule also results in the NHL Stanley Cup Final being dragged out as well.  NBC has no interest in having a Cup Final game on the same night as LeBron and Steph Curry are playing--so the back half of the hockey series is also being staggered to avoid potential TV conflict.  (However, the way Nashville is playing, they are likely going to be swept out of the series by Monday night.)  Still, we don't need hockey on June 14th.

While we are on the subject, I may as well make a bold prediction on the NBA series.  I'll take Golden State in overtime on the 18th day of the series.  No sense in deciding a winner too quickly.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The American Addict

We have a new poster child for the drug-addled state of America today:

The infamous mugshot of 14-time major champion Tiger Woods has become the perfect symbol for a nation taking so many prescription medications that we can't keep them straight anymore.  At the time of his arrest early Monday morning, Tiger told officers that he was taking four medications.  One was the painkiller Vicodin--commonly known around these parts as the "Brett Favre Drug".  One was Torix--an analgesic, or another painkiller.  He claimed one was Soloxex--which no one has been able to figure out, since it isn't listed as an FDA approved medication.  And Tiger also claimed to be on Vioxx--an anti-inflammatory drug which was banned from use here in the US a couple of years ago because it was causing so many deaths.

When news of the Woods' DUI broke on Monday, social media was filled with posts wondering how Tiger could get hammered and then try to drive home.  I had a feeling that Tiger wasn't drunk, but rather was likely on a cocktail of narcotics--and that the discussion about his arrest was probably going to get very awkward the next day.

So why would I think that Tiger Woods would be a high-functioning drug addict?  Well, here's a guy with a lengthy history of injuries and surgeries.  Multiple procedures on knees and Achilles tendons hobbled him for years--and that was followed by a number of back injuries and surgeries the last couple of years which have rendered him a ghost on the PGA Tour--and have most of us wondering if he will ever tee it up competitively again.  So I'd be willing to bet that Tiger has been a daily pain pill popper for more than a decade.

Unlike the average Joe, Tiger has a medical team that is more than willing to keep him on the "legitimate" narcotics train.  Most people hooked on painkillers have to turn to heroin (and a life of crime to support the habit) when their doctors eventually cut them off.  It wouldn't surprise me if Woods has multiple doctors prescribing him multiple painkillers, anti-inflammatories and
who knows what else that he can rotate in order to keep the pills coming.

We should also mention that according to some of his mistresses, Tiger also uses Ambien to sleep at night.  That first admission was, again, more than a decade ago, but given the circumstance of his arrest--and stories of people on Ambien sleep-walking, sleep-eating, sleep-driving and even sleep-committing-crimes--it's entire possible that he was under the influence of that as well when he got behind the wheel in the middle of the night.

Obviously, Tiger is going to pay his fine and do without his drivers license for the minimum amount of time required by Florida law--and will never allow this matter to go to any kind of trial.  Because if it did, it might open up his medical records to the public, and we might see just how many pills a man once considered one of the greatest athletes in the world was taking on a regular basis.  Just like so many of his fellow Americans.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Only Sauerkraut and Schnitzel for Me

It looks like I will be putting my BBQ smoker up for sale soon.  It's not that I have grown tired of making the most delicious meat products possible for family and friends.  It's not that I don't enjoy spending 11-hours in making one meal.  I need to get rid of the smoker because I am guilty of "cultural appropriation".

For those unfamiliar with the term, "cultural appropriation" is when white people take a tradition from minority cultures and "make it their own".  I first heard of it in the world of rock music--as Elvis Presley and the Rolling Stones have been accused of taking "black music" and making billions of dollars off it by presenting it as "safe for white audiences".  The greatest offender was Pat Boone--look at his "catalog of hits" and compare the airplay and record sales for the African-American artists that wrote and first recorded those songs.

But now, "cultural appropriation" has come to the world of food and cooking.  Recently, a burrito truck in Portland, Oregon was shut down by protests and public backlash because it was being run by two white women.  The ladies say they went to a part of Mexico known for its great tortillas, brought recipes back home and started selling them at a pop-up restaurant.  That brought outrage from those who have appointed themselves defenders of Mexican culture who claim the ladies stole the "intellectual property" of another group of people.

There is so much concern about white people stealing other race's food ideas in Portland that an on-line document provides diners with a list of "ethnic" restaurants owned and operated by whites that should be boycotted--and "appropriate" minority-owned and operated eateries that serve the same food.  The list does not make mention of the racial make up of kitchen staff actually preparing the entres--nor does it give the restaurants ratings to determine if the food is as good at the "politically correct" restaurants as it is at those establishments engaging in "cultural appropriation".

The article from a Portland restaurant "news" website even has claims from one protester that what we consider to be "fine dining" is in and of itself racist--as it was "built upon white supremacy, colonialism and sexism".  Apparently, it is not appropriate to pay a lot for French food done in classical preparation--while expecting Chinese or Mexican food to be cheap.

And so that is why I apparently have to get rid of the smoker.  BBQ is a tradition established by black slaves and share-croppers--who usually got only the toughest parts of a pig or cow for their meat.  They learned by cooking it low and slow they could get wonderfully tender and delicious meals--an art that is making a huge comeback now (among white competition cookers and restaurant owners across the country).  Although, I could always detail the "plight" of those earlier BBQ'ers every single time for all of my dining guests to make them feel guilty about the meal they are about to eat. 

Otherwise, I am left with no other option than to only eat the dishes of my German ancestors.  It looks like I had better brush up on my recipes for Weinerschnitzel, sauerkraut, red cabbage, and Sauerbraten.  Thank god we have all the best beers in the world.

Friday, May 26, 2017

No Contest

If Americans weren't so set in their ways, I would say this has been a transformational spring for two professional sports leagues.  For a third straight year in a row, the NBA Playoffs have been practically pre-ordained--as the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers have lost a combined one game in three series to win their conference championships.  Not only were the series blowouts, but nearly every game in those series were lopsided--as were many games in the other series as well.

That stands in stark contrast to what has been another compelling NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs--which has seen nearly 30-overtime games--and a number of other contests decided by late goals.  The Cup Final combatants, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators were not the top seeds in their conferences.  In fact, Nashville was the number 8 seed in the West (yes, Nashville is "west" in the world of hockey).  In the NBA, just one 8-seed has ever won a playoff series--and has never made it to the Finals.

Last night was a perfect microcosm of two sports heading in opposite directions.  Cleveland blew out a lethargic Boston Celtics team that looked like they did not expect to win and played like it from the opening tip.  Meanwhile in Pittsburgh, the Pens and the Ottawa Senators played with a desperation and intensity befitting an elimination game.  Go-ahead goals by Pittsburgh in the 2nd and 3rd periods were met with quick responses from the Sens--as neither team had a chance to relax with a lead for long.  And then, the game went to double overtime--before the Penguins punched their tickets to the Final with a sudden death goal.  It was a game that left you emotionally drained from all the near misses and wild scrambles in front of the goal.

Of course, ratings for the NBA Finals will crush those of the Stanley Cup Final.  What's left of NBA fans are getting what they want, the rubber match of the LeBron versus Steph Curry trilogy (although given the lack of competitive balance in the NBA, it may be the third of 5 or 6 consecutive matchups)--and given the number of ads those two are part of, casual fans will be sure to tune in as well.  Not wanting to end their playoffs too soon--Game One won't be until June 1st.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh and Nashville will likely decide possession of The Cup in relative anonymity.  Nashville is not exactly a city rich in hockey history--and is best known for having "Mr Carrie Underwood"--Mike Fisher--as its captain.  At least we will only have to wait until Monday for that series to start.  And because NBC has some new dance competition show this summer, a couple of the games will be pushed to the lesser-watched NBC Sports Network (check your local listings for channel numbers).

So over the next couple of weeks, don't be afraid to break out of your comfort zone and check out the hard-fought Stanley Cup Final--rather than seven NBA Finals games with serious competition in just the final few minutes each night.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Soaked To the Bone

As I stood on the 8th tee at Lakeshore Municipal Golf Course in the rain for the umpteenth round this spring I came to realize yesterday that this spring has pretty much sucked.  Sure, we had a great start to the season with mild temperatures in late February and early March, but it has been downhill and depressing every since. 

Sports get me outside a lot at this time of year.  I can think of just two or three high school softball games that I was able to umpire without a heavy jacket on the past two months.  Multiple golf rounds have been played with so many layers on, I could barely swing the club.  Under Armor cold gear topped with long sleeve shirts and pants, topped with an insulated jacket and then rain-proof pants with insulated gloves.  I've even had to don the stocking cap for a couple of rounds this spring.

And when it hasn't been cold and wet, it's been windy as hell.  At the US Open Media Preview Day last week, we had winds of 30-miles an hour on an exposed course with hardly any trees and six-inch deep fescue lining the fairways.  I shot an 87 and nearly injured my shoulder patting myself on the back for what I considered a pretty kick-ass round in those conditions.  Playing even farther back with that much wind, I don't think many of the pros next month will break 75.

You know what has actually enjoyed this spring?  My lawn.  Usually, I have to mow two or three times by now.  Before heading up north for the weekend, I'm probably going to have cut it for the sixth time already.  That will teach me to fertilize.  In some yards in my neighborhood, it's taken about two hours for dandelions to grow five inches.

The worst part of the past few weeks has been the lack of sunshine.  Gray day after gray day has made it feel more like November than May.  It's put a real damper on the usual anticipation and excitement of Memorial Day Weekend and making it to the "unofficial start to summer".  And of course, what's in the forecast for Sunday and Monday?  More rain and below average temperatures.

Perhaps Mother Nature has a dry, hot, glorious Summer in store for us to make up for this crappy Spring.  Although the long-range forecast doesn't look that much better.  I guess I'll hang up the drysuit and gloves to dry and get ready for the next round in the rain.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Incredible Shrinking American

While we hear a lot about the changing "face of America" in discussions about the increase in immigration and multi-culturalism, what we should be talking about is the changing "body of America".  Apparently, we are getting shorter as a people.

I found that out the hard way yesterday while trying to shop for new dress pants at a number of area retailers.  A 34 inch inseam is becoming more rare on the rack--as retailers stock more shorter sizes to meet demand from a shorter consumer base.  A clerk at one store told me they don't even stock 34-inch pants anymore--and that I would have to order on-line from their "big and tall" selection.

At my last physical, I measured 6' 2.5"--down from the 6'3" that I was in my 20's and 30's--but I do not consider myself to be "big and tall".  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is "tall".  My friend Joe--who is 6' 8 and over 300-bills is "big and tall".  At 6' 2.5" I should still be able to buy clothes off the rack.  However, compared to our "newest Americans" I am a giant.

The average height of men in Mexico is 5-7.  Most of the rest of Central America is a couple inches shorter than that.  Average heights in Asian countries range from 5-4 to 5-7.  Syrians average 5-7 while Iraqis are just 5-5.  What I need are more Dutch men to immigrate to America.  They average six feet now.  Or maybe more Norwegians--coming in just a quarter inch shorter than that. 

There is likely some good news in the distant future.  As with immigrants of European descent, those coming from other continents and countries will have children that are taller than them.  Credit better nutrition and child health care here in the US for that.  After a couple of gerenations, they will be helping the national average height--and perhaps size 34 pants will return to the realm of "normal size clothing".

In the meantime, I guess I'll have to get used to being "big and tall"--just like I got used to "press one for instructions in English".

Monday, May 22, 2017


In 2001 HBO produced a great docu-drama entitled Conspiracy.  It detailed the infamous Wannsee Conference, where Nazi leaders and bureaucrats met to hammer out how they would efficiently exterminate Jews from Europe.  It was well researched, written and acted--and it won several awards.  If a local filmmaker is looking for a new project, might I suggest documenting the meeting where UW Oshkosh leaders hatched their plan to defraud the UW system, local banks and donors?

We don't know all of the intricate details about that meeting yet.  The lawsuit filed by the UW System against former Chancellor Richard Wells and former Vice Chancellor Tom Sonnleitner only detail the financial aspects of the scandal--but you know there had to be a meeting that set in motion the inappropriate borrowing for a number of projects--most notably the Alumni Welcome and Conference Center and the 2 biodigesters for which the System and taxpayers are now on the hook.

I'd bet that Chancellor Wells started off the meeting talking about "legacy" and doing things that are "for the good of the campus".  Foundation President Art Rathjen was probably very optimistic about being able to raise how ever much money Wells needed for his pet projects--but noted that the banks likely wouldn't share his optimism.  That's when Wells and Sonnleitner likely agreed to sign letters of understanding that the school would cover any loan payments the Foundation couldn't meet because "what is the likelihood of that ever happening? HA HA HA HA HA HA!!"

Actually, there may need to be another meeting detailed in our little local docu-drama--the one where Rathjen comes back a few years later and has to admit that he never came close to raising the money promised for the projects--and now the school somehow has to pony up the cash to keep the Foundation from defaulting.  This is probably where our film takes a dark turn as the parties involved look for ways to not only scrounge up the money (although audits show that isn't too hard to do in UW budgets) and then conceal those payments in a way that no one would discover.  Somehow they managed to do just that--to the tune of $11-MILLION.

But then our little conspiracy begins to fall apart.  Wells--perhaps sensing the house of cards was about to collapse--retires and leaves for Florida and a new Chancellor--not privy to the conspiracy already in place--comes in.  The Foundation fails to bring in the cash to cover the loans again, and we have a third meeting to add to our film (and the one that I would have loved to be in on the most)--where Rathjen goes to Chancellor Andrew Leavitt and tells him "I need to tell you about a little arrangement that we had in place before you got here".  It's too bad Danny Thomas is dead because he could make a cameo as Chancellor Leavitt doing his famous "spit take".

Hopefully the UW System lawsuit will go to trial so that everyone involved has to testify and provide us with all of the backroom details--from there we can add some dramatic lines of dialogue and get ready to begin shooting our movie.  Maybe we can book the Alumni Welcome and Conference Center for its big premier.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Take the Summer Off

Did you hear the big news this week?  Every kid in Oshkosh has enough money to go to college!  Well, we didn't exactly write it up that way, but that is the only assumption you can make when you hear that Ardy & Ed's Drive In can't find enough people to hire in order to stay open 7-days a week this summer.  Obviously, every teen and college kid in town has enough money and doesn't need to work.

Ok, I may be engaging in some hyperbole here.  Every kid in town doesn't have all they money they need to go to college.  But when they hear from presidential candidates, and a Wisconsin Senator and their teachers and celebrities that they have a "right to a free college education"--or that the Federal Government should just forgive student loans after they are borrowed--going out there and earning the money for school doesn't seem so appealing.  And when many of those same media darlings tell kids that they have a "right" to a $15 an hour "living wage" (even though they still live with Mom and Dad), they believe that slinging burgers and donning roller skates for anything less than that rate is "beneath them".

Of course, who has time to work during the summer when your life is already over-scheduled?  Kids in sports have summer leagues, traveling teams and weekend tournaments all over the state and the Midwest.  You have to take part in the "Million Shot Club" or attend "speed camp" or go to goalie school, or show up for off-season weight training--because if you don't, you won't get to play in the one sport you have decided to specialize in for your entire high school career.  For the creative kids, there is band camp, or a summer production, or piano and vocal lessons.  And let's not forget about the family vacation to Disney World or Hawaii--with money that could have gone into the college fund.  Or for those in college trying to "find themselves", there is that summer backpacking across Europe.

And working for the summer always puts a crimp in your social life.  There are dozens of graduation parties to attend, concerts all over the region, really cool beer gardens to check out every night, sunny days at the beach or the water park--not to mention festivals with midways and cute members of the opposite sex (or the same sex) just hanging out looking to meet people.  You wouldn't want to miss any of that would you just for some "boring old job".

When I went back to school in the Twin Cities, here was my schedule:

Classes Monday thru Friday 8-Noon
Packing orders and loading trucks at a dental supply company Monday thru Thursday 1-11 pm
Sports Production Assistant at KSTP TV Friday nights, Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons
Attendant at the Arlington and Rice Sports Dome Saturday mornings and Sunday nights

And that was every week for more than a year.  So if I see any Oshkosh kids posting on any social media about how "boring" their summer has been, I'm driving over there and taking them to Ardy & Ed's myself so they can find "something to do".

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Failing Upward

In the world of business there is a term called "failing upward".  It's usually applied to someone who had a disastrous tenure at one company getting hired by another firm at a position even higher up in the command chain.  It's also used in regards to start up venturists who bring in millions in capital investment--go belly up--and manage to bring in even more cash for their next "big idea". 

Failing upward usually leaves people scratching their heads wondering, "Why would anyone hire that moron?" or "Who would give that person more cash to blow on a stupid idea?"  And yet you see people advancing in the world without really accomplishing anything.

The latest "upward failure" is Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.  The bombastic lawman--who in many ways has become a caricature of the old-school tough-talking sheriff--all the way down to the cowboy hat he wears indoors at public functions--is leaving his elected position for what he claims is an appointment to the Department of Homeland Security.  (It should be noted that Clarke is the only person saying he has been hired by DHS--as the department itself says no appointment has been made yet.)

While 71 other Wisconsin Sheriffs were in their offices overseeing their departments, or responding to scenes of emergencies and disasters, or working with other county departments to improve service to residents, Sheriff Clarke was interested only in self-promotion and stardom.  His appearances on Fox News Channel became so frequent that the network labeled him "America's Sheriff"--especially after the original "America's Sheriff", Joe Arpaio of Arizona lost in his last election.  And like "Sheriff Joe", Clarke may have been promoting himself right out of a job.  He was most likely going to face his stiffest challengers in years in the Democratic primary next year--and they would have had plenty of ammunition to attack him with.

Milwaukee County Jail deaths--including one involving an inmate that was not allowed access water to his cell for a week before his death--continued criticism of Black Lives Matter and basically never showing up for the job that the people elected him to do resulted in a drop in public confidence in Clarke borne out by a number of polls.

So what does Clarke do?  Does he step away from the national spotlight to focus on actual law enforcement?  Nope.  He takes (allegedly) a Federal job that lists "acting as a liason between Homeland Security and local agencies" as its main duties.  Sounds like a position that requires even less actual work--and more time to show up on Fox News as a "Homeland Security Expert". 

This also proves another business adage: "It's not what you know, it's who you know".

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Terrible Juror

I received notice last week that I am in the pool for jury duty in Winnebago County this year.  In my 27-years of eligibility, this is the first notice that I have ever received.  While I dutifully filled out the on-line questionnaire, I probably could have written "don't even bother calling me, no attorney is ever going to let me sit on a jury" and saved everyone a lot of time.

Personally, I think that I would make a great juror.  You would think that we would want people who are well-informed to sit in judgement of others.  Thanks to my job, I am very familiar with the tactics of police investigation.  I know quite a bit about how the State Crime Lab operates, how the State Fire Marshall works and what is and isn't admissible in a court of law.  A jury box full of people like me would actually save a lot of time, as those things wouldn't have to be explained to us--and the "expertise" of witnesses wouldn't have to be established every time they get on the stand.

But defense attorneys and prosecutors don't want people like me on juries.  For starters, I see a lot of police and arrest reports along with criminal complaints.  I might bring some knowledge of a case that may not even be presented at a trial.  I might know about statements that the defendant made to investigators before being read his Miranda rights--or about allegations that may not have been fully corroborated by evidence.  Even District Attorneys wouldn't want me in there because I might question the actions of an officer or an investigator that seem out of the norm.  Or I might wonder why testing procedures weren't followed to the letter--even if a defense attorney may not raise an objection on his own.

Plus, I'm sure both sides worry that if other jurors found out what I may know, they would look at me as having some greater influence within the jury room.  Better to have 12 people with the same level of knowledge try to figure it out than to have one person that could sway the other 11 with their own suppositions.

I guess I could always end up on a jury for a contested divorce or a lawsuit between two former business partners that doesn't rise to the level of being newsworthy.  But even then, the lawyers may not be comfortable having someone on the panel who has spent as much time in courtrooms watching the process work as I have.  I'd love to do my civic duty, but I doubt I will actually be given the chance.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

This Can't Go On

Before I start today, I'd like to thank the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association for awarding "My Two Cents" with a 2nd place in the Best Editorial/Commentary category at the recent awards banquet honoring excellence in broadcasting.  This is the 8th time that I've received an award for the feature and I appreciate their holding my work in such high regard.  This year's award winning entry was my commentary on the proper way to protest Oshkosh City Council Member Caroline Panske's refusal to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance at the first meeting after President Donald Trump won the election last November.

Speaking of which, "My Two Cents" now finds itself at a crossroads.  I've always prided myself on covering a wide variety of topics every morning: politics (local, national and international), sports, pop culture, science, trends in education and bad driving are all in the rotation.  But I'm starting to fear that it's about to become "Donald Trump's latest horrifying gaffe" over and over again.

We've got 17-hours a day of programming here on WOSH where you can hear commentators bending over backwards to somehow defend the President's latest statement, action, threat, tweet and trip to the golf course--every day.  Just last Friday I urged people to demand better than this.  And then three days later the Administration takes it to another all-time low.

I'm considering writing a blanket "Two Cents" that everyone can just refer back to as this clown show continues on for the next three years and eight months.  (That's right, it has only been four months so far).  So every morning you can just imagine in your mind my voice saying "As a Conservative, this is not what I believe in".  Or, "I don't think this is the way the Constitution intended Government to work".  Or, "There isn't a day that goes by that I don't feel good about writing in Paul Ryan for President last November".

It might be easier to just post an avatar of myself holding my head in my hands.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  Might not win another radio award for that though.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Running To Hide

One of the concerns coming out of the Republican state convention over the weekend is that too many candidates will be getting into the race for the US Senate against Tammy Baldwin next year.  Party officials are worried that a multi-candidate race would be too contentious and too expensive--leaving the winner weaker against Baldwin in the general election. 

Democrats on the other hand, have the exact opposite problem--as no one seems to want to run for governor against Scott Walker next year.  A laundry list of high profile Dems have already said they had no interest in running--even some that had talked big about upsetting the Governor before that announcement (like Dane County Executive Joe Parisi--who said he could easily beat Walker--and then decided not to even enter the race).  Perhaps that was why Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson pulled off his press conference ambush of Walker a few weeks ago.  He wanted to see how many talking heads might say "Hey, that Tom Nelson in Appleton should run for governor!"

One Democrat that never seems to be mentioned for governor is Russ Feingold.  Here's a guy that has won three statewide elections--granted he has now lost two in a row, but both were in Republican wave elections.  As soon as anyone bring up Feingold for governor those who no him immediately say "Russ has no interest in being governor". 

It makes you wonder why Feingold would never run.  Being governor would allow him to directly influence how Wisconsin regulates health insurance in the post Affordable Care Act era.  He could push for campaign finance laws here--which has always been his pet cause.  And he could develop budgets that "meet the needs of the people"--which he always complained never happened in Washington.  Let's be honest, being governor has a lot more direct impact on people and the system than being a Senator ever could.

But lack of interest from Feingold--and all other members of Wisconsin's Congressional delegation shows the big difference between the Executive and Legislative branches of government.  When you are Governor or President, you are expected to actually get things done.  Those in Congress or the Legislature can go entire decades without introducing a single bill--or ever getting a measure approved--and can still claim they are "doing their jobs".  Paul Ryan is speaker of the House and just one bill of his has ever made it into law.

Why run for a position that would actually carry some accountability for all of your campaign rhetoric?  It's much easier to sit on a committee and produce sound bites criticizing those in the Executive branch.  Or to introduce measures you know have no chance of passing--just so you can tell your supporters "I'm fighting for you!"  And it's much easier to blend in with the crowd when you are one of 100 or one of 435.  Do nothing Senators and Congressmen get re-elected.  Do nothing Governors do not.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The New Normalcy

Remember when there wasn't a crisis every day involving the President and the White House?  For generations, Americans went about their business and heard little about what was going on in Washington.  The term "Breaking News" on the radio and TV really merited paying attention to--as there was hardly anything major happening that would warrant an "interruption of our regular programming".  Those were really good days.

Now, crisis, disaster and egregious mis-statements are everyday norms.  It's at the point where if I'm not getting news alerts every day from the major sources, I worry that something is wrong with my Iphone.  Can you think of the last day where you didn't look at your news timeline and wonder "What the hell is going on with this administration?"

I worry that like with so many other things today, we are just going to accept this level of ineptitude, reactionism and inconsistency as the "new normal" for the way Government is supposed to run.  We've come to just laugh off reports about the military buying $47 hammers and state highway projects running 300% over budget.  "That's government for you" we'll usually say after hearing those stories.  Actions that raised serious concerns throughout the country in the lead up to World War II or during the Watergate crisis today result in a "meh" from most people--as they return to the comments section on Facebook to discuss who should be the judges for the revival of American Idol.

We should not accept lurching Presidential actions, idle threats and general incompetent actions of aides and subordinates to become our new "normal" for governing.  Not knowing how government works is not "bringing a new perspective to Washington".  Blaming media coverage for negative outcomes is not "standing up for the people".  And issuing a series of tweets at 5:00 am is not "providing strong leadership".

We are better than this as a people--and we should demand better than this from our President and his staff.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A Lot of Accomodation for Boat Guy

One thing that hasn't been brought up in the debate over what style of bridge should be built to replace the one connecting  Jackson and Oregon Streets is why we still need drawbridges on the Fox River in downtown Oshkosh anyway? 

The original bridges spanning the Fox in our city needed to accommodate steamships that brought supplies to and products from the riverside lumber mills and woodworking plants.  Steam passenger ships still plied the Lake Winnebago system.  Those were larger crafts with huge steam and smokestacks.  But when was the last time anything like that passed through Oshkosh on the Fox?  Maybe the last time the dinner cruise ship was in business?

Today, we keep drawbridges for the very small number of pleasure boats needing higher clearance for the limited number of times they traverse the Fox River.  And sometimes, you can question the need to raise the deck for even some of those.  How many times have you been stuck behind the gates needing to get somewhere on a summer weekend afternoon and wondered "They had to raise the bridge for that boat?"

In cities like Milwaukee and Green Bay, where commercial traffic still uses the rivers, drawbridges should remain in use.  That's also why they have huge high-rise bridges like the Leo Frigo and the Hoan to accommodate large cargo carriers.  But perhaps it's time to ask why we are taking on extra costs and overbuilding infrastructure in places like Oshkosh and Menasha to accommodate a couple hundred boats at most?

The 21st century may be a good time to decide that our bridges are going to be a standard height, and that boat owners and manufacturers will have to adapt to that--not the other way around.  Current laws still adhere to the 19th century premise that shipping should take priority over driving--creating situations where the vast majority defer to the very few.  There is precedence for this.  The locks of the Panama Canal and the Soo are a certain size--so all international cargo ships, tankers and even aircraft carriers are built to fit into them.  Let pleasure boat makers and buyers know that our bridges are going to be just 16-feet tall--and they can make plenty of luxurious watercraft to fit under them.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

An Incredible Opportunity

Somebody should give credit to Congressional Republicans for creating one of the greatest economic opportunities of all time.  As many on the Left decry the repeal of the Affordable Care Act as "taking away health care from millions", it should be noted that the bill does not ban health insurance providers from offering coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.  Nor does it require lifetime benefit caps, charging more for older customers or having higher rates for women than men.

So that means that anyone can offer insurance policies with any of those benefits--without penalty from the Government.  And therein lies the incredible opportunity.  What if I went on Shark Tank and told the investors that I had a potential customer base of 23-million people (the number quoted as those who could lose their current health insurance if the Senate approves the bill in its current form)?  Any of them would be jumping at the opportunity to do business with me.  And that is what those who are angry, and upset and threatening to "overthrow" the government should be doing--beating the system at its own game.

There is nothing preventing those taking to the streets and chanting and crying endlessly on social media from launching their own health insurance companies to offer the very same benefits provided under the Affordable Care Act.  Sell policies that people can buy even after they get very sick.  Don't exclude those with pre-existing conditions.  Cover everything: abortions, gender conversions, birth control, even post traumatic stress disorder caused by the election of Donald Trump as President.  Forget actuarial tables and charge everyone the same premiums--or don't charge them if you think that is "too much".

Before you think it's "too expensive" to launch a new health insurance provider, take a look at the people leading the protests of the ACA repeal: Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg--many of the richest and most business-savvy people in the world.  Let them put their money where their mouths are and prove that their insurance system can work.  Heck, you can even call it "ObamaCare" and hire the former President to be your CEO.  He's not doing much now--and he can be in really hip commercials guaranteed to get people to buy.

And if the privatized ObamaCare can't control costs, they can launch their own health care system as well.  Run hospitals that charge only "fair" prices.  Get physicians like Dr Sanjay Gupta, and Dr Mahmet Oz and Dr Mark Golston and even Dr Phil to provide services at rates that anyone can afford since they are so concerned about our health care.  If Big Pharma won't provide medicines at low enough prices, get all of those angry researchers, professors and Bill Nye "The Science Guy" to create effective low-cost medicines that can be all but given away.

The best part of this business plan?  It won't require a single government mandate to "succeed".  The low rates, the comprehensive coverage and the incredible quality of the care will bring everyone flocking to buy--and the next thing you know--everyone will be enrolled on their own.  It would be the ultimate American success story: Socialists beating Capitalism at its own game. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Fake Holidays

There is nothing more American than taking another culture's holiday and turning it into an over-the-top celebration of excess.  We've managed to turn the minor Feast of St Patrick's day on the Catholic Church calendar into a reason to drink Budweiser with green food dye all day while ruining a good brisket by making it into corned beef--all in the name of "being Irish".  The pagan celebration of the spring equinox that was co-opted by the Christians into Easter has been turned into a day to gorge yourself on candy and stuff baskets with toys as well.  The Austro-German tradition of St Nicholas bringing small treats like fruits or candies to kids on Christmas has been blown up to the greatest marketing and consumer event on the calendar--to the point that entire industries are made or broken by their performance in the holiday season.

And then you have today--Cinco de Mayo.  This is a small Mexican celebration of their army defeating the French in the Battle of Puebla back in 1862.  As I always like to say, as a German, if we celebrated beating the French in a battle we would have holidays every other day on the calendar.  But now that we Americans have decided to "celebrate" as well, that bit of history is completely lost.  In fact, most Americans believe that today is "Mexican Independence Day".  Cinco de Mayo now is nothing more than bars and restaurants offering specials on fruity tequila drinks, horrible cervezas and so-called "Mexican food" that no self-respecting Mexican would ever serve to their family.  With the "holiday" falling on a Friday this year (and a Saturday next year) expect to see plenty of sombreros and to hear lots of "arribas!!" at your favorite "cantina" tonight.

Personally, I'll stick to our real American holidays.  I'm always proud to see all those American flags beside the graves in cemeteries on the way up north to be with my family at the lake.  Who doesn't love grilling out while waiting for dusk and the start of fireworks on the 4th of July.  And what is more American than eating turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie while watching football on Thanksgiving?  No silly bar specials.  No dressing up like a caricature.  No need to drop a quarter of your annual salary on gifts.  (Although I continue to believe that the gift-giving frenzy of Christmas should be done on the 4th of July--since freedom is the one thing we can all celebrate in this country.  Plus it's a lot warmer then.)

So don't look for me to be doing tequila shots or taking part in a taco eating contest today.  I'm German and we have this little thing called Oktoberfest--which is 18 straight days of hard drinking and dancing.  Come at us when your ready for that, amateurs.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

It's Like Deja Vu All Over Again

I almost started putting up Christmas decorations yesterday.  I thought that I had been transported back in time to December 24th of 2009 based on what I was seeing and hearing in news reports.  You may recall that was the day that Congress took an early morning vote to approve the Affordable Care Act.  As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi so perfectly summed up back then, they "had to pass the bill to find out what's in the bill". 

That was pretty much the same message we are getting this week from Republicans in Congress as they get ready to vote on a bill that would repeal the ACA.  Nobody has any idea how much the measure is going to cost--or even save--taxpayers.  There are no numbers on how many high-risk insurees will have to switch to state insurance pools in order to lower rates for those without pre-existing conditions.  And no one has figured out yet how much premiums on older folks that require more medical care will go up once restrictions on their rates are lifted.

The very same GOP Congressmen that mocked Pelosi for her stupid comments are making almost the same ones now.  And all that does is make the ACA repeal look as rushed, misinformed and short-sighted as the original vote putting it into place.  We don't even know if all of the financial and economic time bombs hidden within the bill have been pushed back to affect the markets after President Trump completes his potential 8-years in office so he can just walk away like President Obama did with his law's hidden disasters.

You should remember that the December 24, 2009 Congressional vote was followed by the November 2nd, 2010 popular election that saw many of the Democrats who had no idea what they were voting for swept out of office in a landslide that eventually led to the election of a reality show host as President six years later.  Could the GOP be sowing the seeds for a very short-term win today--that will lead to similar disastrous results on November 6th, 2018?

I guess they have to pass the bill to find out.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Let the Feast Begin!

That cheering you heard yesterday was from teenage boys and high school athletes hearing that Obama-era regulations on school lunch programs are being rolled back by the Trump Administration.  For the past few years, schools have been strictly regulated as to what they could serve to kids--and how much of that students were allowed to take.  That meant that six-foot-five senior boys were provided with the same amount of food as the four-foot-nine-85-pound freshman girl.  It was the perfect example of Big Government's "one size fits all, we know what is right for everyone" approach to regulation.

It also means that schools will no longer be required to put certain foods on kids' trays as they go through the line.  Don't like the bitter taste of boiled green beans?  Too bad kid, you aren't leaving this kitchen without a half cup of them on your plate.  The "logic" behind this major food waste was that if kids are "exposed" to veggies and fruits at a younger age, they are more likely to grow up eating them as a regular part of their diet.

I can tell you from personal experience that even if the lunch ladies of my day had slopped some Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, beans, asparagus, broccoli, bok choi, collard greens, spinach, eggplant, raspberries, turnips, radishes or raw onions on my plate every day for thirteen years--I still wouldn't eat any of them today, because I doubt it would have changed the way any of them taste.

Actually, today's kids should consider themselves very lucky to even have Hot Lunch in their schools.  I went to grade school at a small, rural Catholic school and we only had hot lunch available on Wednesdays.  That was it.  That meant four days of the week I had a cold lunchmeat sandwich,  a few potato chips and maybe a cookie or a brownie packed in my NFL aluminum lunchbox.  That is why as an adult I refuse to eat cold sandwiches for lunch--unless there are absolutely no alternatives.

But I want to congratulate those football, basketball and track athletes that can now go back for "seconds" in the lunch line without fear of penalty from the Federal Government to fuel their bodies for the workouts coming up later in the day.  Why don't you grab an extra chocolate-chip cookie for me while you're up there.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Freedom Of Confusion

Is there a more misunderstood amendment to the Constitution than the First?  In just this past weekend I heard mis-interpretations of pretty much every element of the amendment.  Just to recap, here is what it says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

One of the things that gets lost in the interpretation of this amendment is that "Congress" is applied not just to the House of Representatives and the Senate but to all levels of government--down to school boards and town boards and all public institutions.  To the Founding Fathers "Congress" was an all-encompassing term for "Big Government".  So that is why when former Labor Secretary Robert Reich defends his school, Cal-Berkley, allowing protesters to drive off Ann Coulter from speaking on campus, he is flat out wrong.  "College campuses should not allow 'hate speech'" flies directly in the face of the very language of the amendment.  Where in that passage does it say anything about "not having to hear viewpoints that run counter to your own?"

You will also note that people are allowed to assemble "peaceably".  Protesters unhappy with Ann Coulter or Ben Shapiro or President Trump have every right to gather in their groups.  But when their actions require bringing in riot police, or they are physically preventing others from getting to where they want to go--whether it be a college lecture hall or driving down an interstate--that right is no longer protected.  (Does that legalize running people over that try to block traffic as a form of "protest"?  I'm not so sure about that).

And even freedom of the press came under attack this weekend.  White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told the Sunday talk shows that they are looking to change libel laws to allow the President to sue news outlets that publish items he believes to be "false".  We'd better double the size of the US court systems and the budget that the Government spends on legal expenses if that ever happens.

Also this weekend, the New York Times came under fire for publishing an opinion piece from a conservative commentator debunking alarm over global climate change.  Social media was filled with people saying they had cancelled their subscriptions--and posting the on-line confirmations to prove it, after a spokesman for the paper said most people didn't actually follow through on those threats.  What turned the "outrage" into the absurd was others taking screen shots of the cancellers posting on social media right after the election that they were getting NYT subscriptions to "support the right of the free press".

The Constitution is available on millions of websites.  Let's familiarize ourselves with it before we go around claiming to have a "right" to this and a "right" to that.