Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Strengthening His Base

I was all set to talk about how the race for the Republican nomination for President in 2020 is officially getting underway this week.  I was thinking that some member of Congress or Governor was going to take a strong stand against President Trump's actions in just his first week in office and establish themselves as a potential "party savior" that could ride the wave of discontent with Trump to the first intra-party victory over a sitting President in US electoral history.

But further consideration finds that Donald Trump likely hasn't alienated ANY of the people that voted for him in the last election.  Let's keep in mind that the President hasn't done a single thing that he hadn't promised to do in the first 100-days of his administration before they voted for him.  If anything, the "Trumpkins" are now completely enamored with their President--and their support for him has only become stronger.

But what about the "massive protests"?  The people marching in the streets?  The jamming of airports with those opposed to the travel ban?  Surely those masses of humanity show that the American people have turned against their President!  Well that's what I thought at first--but consider where these protests are taking place.  The airports in New York, Washington DC, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco saw the huge crowds--but Donald Trump had little support in those areas to begin with.  The people jamming the terminals were those that packed Bernie Sanders rallies too--and looked what that got them.

Do you see the Michigan factory workers skipping a day on the job to go protest the inauguration?  Are the Evangelicals from Ohio getting on the buses to take part in the Women's March?  Are the Congressional offices of Paul Ryan and Jim Sensenbrenner being overwhelmed with calls from people in the deep-red suburban counties outside of Milwaukee demanding impeachment proceedings?

So far, Donald Trump is scoring touchdowns with those that carried him to a stunning Republican primary win--and an even bigger upset victory in the general election.  Today, he kicks an extra point with the party members that held their nose and voted for him in November by appointing a hard-core conservative to the Supreme Court--which was the only issue actual Conservatives could have hoped to get out of Trump.  And four years from now, that may be their only tie to Trump again--which would mean more nose-holding in the voting booth.

So the 35% of Americans that put Donald Trump in the White House shake their heads at the 35% that voted against him protesting--while the remaining 30% worry only about who got eliminated on The Bachelor last night.

Monday, January 30, 2017

A Full Accounting

If you've ever seen a government budget you know it's very impressive.  They are usually thick volumes with page after page of small agate type featuring line item after line item of expenditures and revenues.  Columns show the new budget amount, what was budgeted last year and what was actually spent in the previous budget cycle.  When you look at it you tend to think "Wow, they are really on top of everything financially!"

And that is why people have to wonder how things like a 300% cost overrun on the Interstate 41 expansion project and the illegal transfer of up to $13-MILLION from UW Oshkosh to its Foundation can happen.  With every penny accounted for, how does someone not notice that?

That is where the budget books can be deceiving.  They can tell you how the money is supposed to be spent--and how much was charged to a certain line item--but they don't tell you how the money was actually spent.  The budgets don't come with receipts, purchase orders, cancelled checks, bank account statements or change orders.  They don't detail transfers made between accounts or line items either.  Those are the real details of Government spending--and usually they are hidden away--deep in filing cabinets or computer programs.

What's more, those huge budget books come with very convenient summaries--that take the very small numbers, make them bigger and give lawmakers general ideas of how much is being spent in each department of Government so they don't have to actually go line item by line item to figure it out.  And it is within that impenetrable wall of numbers that those who misuse, waste or steal our tax dollars can operate undetected for so long.  They know how to work the numbers--and the sheer volume of the numbers provides them protection.

But there is a way to get inside of those numbers and to make sure that our money is being used legitimately--and that is through the audit process.  Local governments are required to have their books audited annually--and that is how the people stealing from student accounts at elementary schools or using purchase orders at the Water Works to buy musical equipment are getting caught.  But State Government is not regularly audited.  There is no requirement for that to happen like on the local level.

There is a Legislative Audit Bureau in place already--but they act only upon the request of the Audit Committee--which usually only authorizes limited action within a certain department's budget or operations when someone thinks there is a problem--or can score political points by embarrassing a department Secretary.  All of State Government operations is not audited on a regular basis.

The excuse given for this is that "the cost would be more than any waste or fraud you might uncover."  But you're telling me that having someone not connected to the DOT examine the books every two years would cost more than the BILLION dollars extra that went to the I-41 project?  Or that auditors would cost more than the $5.5-MILLION the state will be on the hook for when the UWO Foundation defaults on their loans?

It is time that we demand greater accountability from our State Government in its use of our tax dollars.  Every purchase order, every receipt, every time card and every welfare application needs to be checked by a second and perhaps a third set of eyes to ensure its legitimacy.  I think we will find the cost will be well worth it.

Friday, January 27, 2017

That Explains It

It's always interesting when you think one thing is the cause of a problem--but it turns out to be something completely different.  For a couple of years now, we have been told that the Wisconsin transportation budget is running a huge structural deficit because our gas taxes are too low and that we don't pay enough in registration fees.  We are even being threatened with toll roads to "fix the revenue problem".  And then yesterday the Legislative Audit Bureau released its report on spending at the DOT, and the real cause of budget crisis is clearly revealed: Wisconsin highway projects come in over budget.  WAY over budget. 
Projects done from 2008 to last year were $780-MILLION more expensive than what was budgeted for them.  The real killer is that projects currently underway here in Wisconsin are projected to go $3-BILLION over budget by the time they are completed.  To put this into perspective, the "crisis" facing the highway fund right now is an estimate $1-BILLION dollar structural deficit.  Sounds to me like we would actually be fine if some estimators had done a much better job ten years ago getting their numbers right.
I understand that major projects like that--which are estimated and bid out years before any construction actually starts--are difficult to accurately assess.  But somehow the initial price tag on the Interstate 41 expansion between Oshkosh and Green Bay was only ONE-THIRD of the actual final cost.  Was the inflation rate that high and I missed it the last ten years?  Did the project take three times as long to complete as it was supposed to?  Let's hope the people that put together the project estimate for that have retired to Florida and are collecting their State pensions by now.
Of course, when officials realized that they were looking at huge cost overruns they should have done two things: 1--Alerted some people at the state capitol who actually approve the funding for these projects--no matter how "embarrassing" it may be.  And 2--start cutting costs.  If you take the I41 expansion project as an example, foregoing the stamped concrete look on the overpasses probably could have saved some money.  Yes "plain old concrete" overpasses are boring to look at while driving--but they carry cars over the interstate just as efficiently and safely as those that "look pretty".  They could have done away with the "artwork" hidden below the Butte des Morts Causeway.  I'm pretty sure the walleye fishermen and the drunks headed up to Fremont in their loud powerboats won't enjoy their day any less If they didn't have fish paintings to look at on the way to the up-river lakes.
And of course, the biggest cost savings could have been had by eliminating the dozens of roundabouts that were installed at nearly every interchange along the I41 expansion project route.  Not having to make additional land purchases, not having to reroute frontage roads and re-align cross roads would have saved time, resources, manpower and money. 
That's My Two Cents--which would cost the DOT Six Cents.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Not a Good Start

I know it hasn't even been a week yet, but I can't say the Donald Trump presidency is off to a great--or even a good--start.  Friday's inaugural speech did not to build my confidence in the man that I did not vote for.  His new definition of "patriotism" greatly concerns me--as I believe that isolationism will only make the world more dangerous for all of us. 

Then came the embarrassing fight with the media over estimated crowd numbers at the Inauguration ceremony on the National Mall.  It just set the tone that the administration is going to be petty, pouty and will attempt to wage all out war on insignificant things.  It also showed that the Celebrity President cares only about popularity and ratings.

A few days later came the shutdown of Federal  Twitter accounts that featured posts the administration didn't like.  That makes me wonder if it is President Trump himself that is monitoring all of these Twitter feeds--or if there is a "Secretary of Social Media" set up somewhere in the White House alerting the Oval Office to potentially "offensive" materials coming from the National Parks Service.

Now comes an mandate that all scientific studies conducted by Federal agencies have to submit their findings to political appointees before being published.  This brings up the possibility of scientific data being manipulated to win White House approval--or very important information being withheld or delayed--at a detriment to the American people.  I don't mind if a study finds the Earth is getting warmer--because I am not a Global Warming Denier.  I'm a Global Warming Enjoyer.

But most disturbing to me is how a man in office less than a week has become very comfortable with the Executive Order.  Those of us Constitutionalists who screamed bloody murder when President Obama used nothing more than a computer and a pen to affect major change on the country should be just as upset by President Trump taking the same course of action.  Yes, most of Trump's executive orders have been to reverse Obama's executive orders--but the more he uses the process, the more accustomed President Trump will become to just dictating an order and signing it into the law of the land.  And you had better believe that he will have experts just as "qualified" to find ways to work around Congress as President Obama did.

There is a long way to go--but let's hope things start changing for the better in the White House fast.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Fools Green & Gold

Sports Talk Radio has been ablaze this week with discussion about what the Green Bay Packers need to do to "get over the hump" and make it to the Super Bowl next season.  Talking heads and callers alike seem to think the team is just a player or two on both sides of the ball away from winning a title.  But those of us not wearing Green and Gold to work every day from September to January realize that the Packers continued success is really a mirage created by the exceptional talent of just one player.

In Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay is as close to a one-man team as you will find in the NFL.  When Rodgers struggled with accuracy and reads mid-season, the team struggled to a 4-6 record.  When his throws were more on target and on time, the team won 8 games in a row and made it to the NFC Championship game.  Did the receivers suddenly become better after week 10?  Did the defense improve dramatically down the stretch?  No.  Number 12 got ridiculously hot--and single-handedly carried the team to a division title and the playoffs.

Outside of quarterback, the Packers have absolutely no playmakers at any skill positions.  None of their receivers are going to the Pro Bowl--and everyone goes to the Pro Bowl.  They had a receiver playing running back for the second half of the season--not that anyone before that was a serious threat out of backfield.  The offensive line was solid--but you'll notice that most of Rodgers big plays come as he is scrambling around avoiding numerous defenders that are getting pressure in the pocket.

The defensive side is an even bigger disaster.  The Packers have no pass rushers.  Their linebackers are painfully slow, don't read plays very well, can't cover in space and are sub-par tacklers.  And the secondary?  I'll cut them a bit of slack due to the extent of the injuries suffered at cornerback and the lack of pressure put on opposing QB's to force bad throws that could be picked off.

While Ted Thompson would never consider paying big bucks to bring in offensive playmakers or defensive difference makers, it probably doesn't matter--because those guys wouldn't want to come to Green Bay anyway.  In the "modern game"--with passing every down--who wants to have half of your games at cold, windy and snowy Lambeau Field?  There are dome teams that haven't seen a flake of snow in three seasons.  Go there, pile up your stats and never run the risk of losing feeling in your fingers.

Aaron Rodgers will someday be seen as the "next John Elway" with huge stats but not as much team success as one might expect--except Rodgers got his Super Bowl title early in his career--instead of at the end.  And as far as the Packers being "one player away"?  You must mean being one player away from returning to the middle or the bottom of the pack every season.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Why I Love My Wife a Little More Today

I would just like to announce that I love my wife, Michele, just a little bit more today.  That revelation comes after watching just a half-hour of The Bachelor last night to see what they used from the show's trip to the Oshkosh area back in October.

For those of you that did not tune in--and be glad you did not--I can tell you that ABC didn't make us look too foolish.  The visit to Knigge Farms in Omro was cliché "fish out of water" stuff with women in high heels and designer clothes trying to milk a cow by hand and shoveling cow manure.  The Paine Arts Center and Gardens looked great--even though they shot in October, so the flowers weren't exactly in full bloom--but the way the interior shots were framed, it could have been any place with older furniture.

Now, the reason I love my wife a bit more today is that she never stooped to the level of caricature and self-embarrassment that the women appearing on The Bachelor are more than willing to reach.  It took me all of ten minutes watching last night's show to understand why "Nick" kisses the women in mid-sentence: He just wants them to shut the heck up.

I doubled my viewing "pleasure" last night by following the #TheBachelor feed on Twitter.  It is even more embarrassing how many people (women and men) take this show at face value--like it is actually X-number of women trying to "win the heart of America's most eligible bachelor".  Every bit of "drama"--not to mention unintentional comedy--is manufactured.  It's not too hard to realize that the bachelor is interested in two or three women.  The rest become either antagonists or sympathetic figures to set up some measure of audience buy-in before their "shocking elimination". 

There is obviously one woman who is taking her "crazy b!*@&" role to heart.  She is laying the groundwork for a "career" in "reality television" with comments about Michael Jordan and "Abryham" Lincoln's napping habits and being too "injured" to shovel "poopy".  If this was actual "reality TV" "Nick" would have sent her off after ten minutes--but you know the producers have told him to get rid of the other "boring chicks" so America can get its fill of the "psycho woman" first.

As far as we know, The Bachelor won't be back in our area for the rest of this season--so I can go back to my routine of not watching it--ever again.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The George Costanza Era

One of the greatest lines to come out of the Seinfeld series was from George Costanza telling Jerry how to be come a great liar and fool a polygraph machine:

Now fast forward from the 1990's to just this past weekend, as new White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer set a combative tone with the press corps by trying to debunk claims that nobody showed up for the Trump inauguration:

I think Sean Spicer really believes that the crowd on Friday on The Mall was larger than when President Obama was first sworn in.  As long you believe it to be true, Sean.....  The better way to handle it would have been to point out that Trump supporters actually have jobs to go to on a Friday.  They don't get to take time off work to "celebrate the inauguration".

Then the Sunday morning talk shows introduced us to a new term: "Alternative facts" courtesy of Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway:


So that is where we will be for the next four years, comparing facts to alternative facts in a battle for belief in the minds of Americans.  Just wait til Kramer comes sliding through the door to the Oval Office accompanied by canned audience applause and laughter.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Obama Legacy

As he heads out of office today, talking heads are wondering what President Obama's "legacy" will be.  It's important for Presidents to have "legacies"--although I would be hard pressed to tell you what the legacies of Chester A Arthur, Franklin Pierce and Benjamin Harrison may have been. 

Obviously, President Obama's "legacy" was going to be the Affordable Care Act.  It was going to save families $5000 a year and set the US on the path to Socialized Medicine.  But then the sign up process didn't work very well.  And then far fewer young, healthy people signed up for coverage than everyone expected.  And then insurance providers dropped out of the program--giving people fewer choices.  And then in Obama's final few months in office, premiums skyrocketed across the country.  And now Congressional Republicans are working to completely dismantle "ObamaCare". 

Then President Obama's "legacy" was going to be improved race relations in America.  African-Americans and other minorities were going to be "empowered" and the government was going to ensure equality for all.  But then the "birther movement" started.  And then police officers of all races started shooting unarmed men.  And then juries acquitted those officers.  And then there was rioting and protests in the streets.  And then white supremacists openly endorsed a Presidential candidate--and that candidate actually won.

Then President Obama's "legacy" was going to a "reset" in our relationship with Russia.  Vladamir Putin would be brought to heel by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the threat of Russian influence in Europe would be reduced.  But then Russian-backed rebels invaded Ukraine.  And then they shot down a Malaysian Airlines passenger jet with Russian-provided missles.  And then Russia started its own air campaign in Syria killing not only members of ISIS--but also American-backed rebels.  And then a Russian phishing scam tricked Clinton Campaign advisor John Podesta into giving up his email access--allowing hackers to provide Wikileaks with all of the details on how the Democratic National Committee did all it could to keep Bernie Sanders from winning the nomination.  And then the Russians worked closely with the Donald Trump campaign to assist his victory.

Then President Obama's "legacy" was going to be killing Osama Bin Laden, destroying Al Qaeda and ending US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But then ISIS rose up and took Al Qaeda's place in trying to return Western Society to the Stone Age.  And they took over parts of Syria--leading to a devastating three-way civil war.  And then those refugees overwhelmed Europe.  And then ISIS-aligned terrorists attacked Brussels, Paris (twice), Orlando, San Bernadino, Fort Lauderdale and multiple other places around the world.

So what then will be the "Obama Legacy"?  I would say that his "legacy" actually begins today--with the swearing in of Donald Trump as President.  Obama changed the way we look at qualifications for President.  He was a first-term Senator from Illinois who had previously served seven years in the Illinois State Senate and before that was a part-time teacher and the ambiguous "community organizer".  Relatively little political experience for someone elected to the most powerful position in the world.  But Obama made it okay for Americans to vote for someone just because he was "cool" or "different"--not because he was the "most qualified for the job".  And that voting experience begat the political neophyte Trump--who beat a woman President Obama called "the most-qualified person to ever run for President" (after saying she was not ready to be President while running against her 8-years before).  Welcome to the age of the "Celebrity President"--the real Obama "legacy".

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Doing Too Much

When you think about a state university, what do you believe should be its primary focus?  Educating kids, right?  And it's second purpose should be conducting research that can benefit all of society, correct?  Anything beyond that is tertiary in importance and should be done only if resources are abundantly available.  That is why the financial scandal unfolding at UW Oshkosh is so frustrating--none of it needed to happen.

In a nutshell, former Chancellor Richard Wells, former Vice Chancellor Tom Sonnleitner and former UWO Foundation President Art Rathjen colluded to not only bind the university to debt accrued by the foundation--but they also conducted secret fund transfers to cover that debt when the foundation failed to raise the money expected to pay off those debts.  And for what did the foundation accrue that debt?  For student scholarships?  No.  For construction of new on-campus laboratories?  No.  For endowment of research professorships?  Not that either.  Instead, the foundation racked up those debts for a hotel, a football stadium, bio-digesters and a conference center.

Sure the Oshkosh Sports Complex is nice, but we are still talking about Division III sports here--and I've heard from Oshkosh School District officials who are not too happy about having to play off-campus every home game for a rental fee they think is inflated.  They would have preferred that the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation helped them build new football fields at each of the High Schools rather than a shared facility with the University.

The bio-digesters are one of those feel good things that campus liberals like to brag about.  "Look at us turning our campus waste into 'free' energy!"  And the second facility built on a Rosendale mega-farm could just as easily been funded through private investment (if anyone thought there is money to be made in turning cow-poop into electricity).  I bet the UWO greens now feel like Volkswagen owners after the whole "fake emissions standards" controversy.

The Alumni Welcome and Conference Center is nice--and I have attended a number of events there.  But those same events could have been held at the Convention Center, Reeve Memorial Union or the Sunnyview Expo Center.  And I'm pretty sure alumni still know how to get around the campus without a "welcome center".

Of course, the biggest head scratcher--and the one that got people wondering about the Foundation's financing--was the partial ownership of the former Park Plaza Hotel.  Even people at the slap ourselves on the back press conference to announce the purchase and redevelopment agreement were asking "Why is the University buying a hotel?"  It would make a bit of sense if the school offered a hotel and hospitality degree.  Or if getting to the campus from hotels by the interstate was actually a hassle. 

At the ribbon cuttings for all of those now-tainted projects, Chancellor Wells would cite the "Wisconsin Idea"--which holds that the UW System should work to benefit everyone in the state--not just those that come to the campuses.  But I'm pretty sure the "Idea" pertains to things like developing methods to increase dairy cow production, sending graduates with actual job skills back to their hometowns to grow and develop businesses and finding the cures for the diseases that kill so many--not renovating hotels, turning manure into small amounts of electricity and installing new artificial turf on a football field.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Final Slap in the Face

Wow. You've gotta hand it to President Obama--he really knows how to go out in style.  On the third-to-last day of his Presidency, Obama delivered the biggest slap in the face to his country by commuting the sentence of treason convict Chelsea (nee Bradley) Manning.  Manning was to serve a 35-year prison sentence for stealing classified information on US intelligence gathering and providing it to Wikileaks--which published every single document.  The breach put intelligence operations at risk, damaged relations with our allies and placed foreign agents in grave danger.

Liberals hailed Manning as a hero because those actions "revealed the abuses of government power" by those in the intelligence community.  That status was further cemented when--after conviction and sentencing--Manning declared that he actually wanted to be a woman--and should not be held in a men's military prison.  The Obama administration would eventually order the Army to provide Manning with the hormone therapy needed for gender conversion while behind bars.

The President's decision this week was made over the strong objection of Defense Secretary Ash Carter.  It also further damages relations between the White House and Central Intelligence as the outgoing President sends a clear message to the world that exposing state secrets and undermining attempts to monitor our enemies will not be treated seriously--while the new President comes in saying the work of agents in the field is wrong and attempts at political sabotage.  Meanwhile, the loss of quality intelligence makes the world a much for dangerous place for the United States.

Of course, the President's commutation for Manning also undermines liberals' efforts to de-legitimize Donald Trump's Presidency.  When the President says its okay to take state secrets to Wikileaks, how can a righteously-indignant Senator think that its wrong for Hillary Clinton's campaign manager to get tricked into giving up his log-in information so that Russians can provide Wikileaks with emails showing the Democratic National Committee doing everything it can to prevent Bernie Sanders from winning the nomination?

And the best part is, the President doesn't even need to explain himself.  There will be no more press briefings, no more Youtube videos or Facebook chats for the President.  All he has to do is show up for the ceremonial limo ride with Trump to the Inauguration and boarding Marine One to fly off into the sunset.  It wouldn't surprise me that instead of the double "victory sign" we got from Nixon on his way out--Obama gives us the "double bird".

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Fear Factor

As a Constitutional Conservative I would like to welcome all of the Liberals getting ready to join our calls for a more limited Federal Government this week.  And I'd like to extend a very special "Come on aboard" to those specifically demanding scaled-back Executive Powers starting on Friday.

I bet you never thought you'd be joining those of us who hold the vision of the Founding Fathers dear to our hearts.  It all seemed so good when Big Government was taking over health insurance, energy production, the auto industry, diet and nutrition and public education.  You allowed Uncle Sam to define your gender and your marital status and to turn a blind eye to your citizenship status.  You trusted that those in power could "protect you" from experiencing, seeing or hearing anything that might make you feel bad about yourself.  You bought into the belief that politicians can make all of your problems go away--if you just give them enough control.

But then people who don't share every single tenet of your beliefs went and won a bunch of elections last year.  And now you realize just how much freedom and self-determination you have given away.  Now "scary, white men" control so much of your life--and you are scared.  You never considered that the hand that gives can also take away.  You are learning now that there is no real "safe space"--regardless of how many puppies they put in the room for you to pet.

Now you recognize that the Executive Orders and bureaucratic regulations that you applauded so recently might be used against your personal interests--and you want that stopped.  Well, I would say we really needed your support for our limited government efforts 8, 16 or 24 years ago--but you were young and didn't really know much about how things work back then.  Or maybe you were the frog dropped in the pot and you didn't realize your predicament until the water started boiling.

There's a reason why Americans didn't live in fear when Martin Van Buren, Millard Fillmore and Dwight Eisenhower moved into the White House--and with a little determination and a return to the limits those that drafted the Constitution intended to have in place--we might be able to experience that sense of real security again.

Monday, January 16, 2017

An Idea Whose Time Had Gone

Animal rights activists are crowing this week claiming the decision by the Barnum and Bailey-Ringling Brothers Circus to end their show is a "victory for their side".  As if their emails to radio and TV stations in advance of circus stops--or flyers handed out to people going to the show and then just tossed on the ground--were the reason why the company folded up their big tent.  The real reason the show won't go on is that Americans have moved on from that type of "entertainment".

You have to give the circus credit, they had a good run.  It can trace its roots back to the Roman Empire, when unpopular Emperors would quell uprising with special shows at the Coliseum.  That's where the phrase "bread and circus" came from.  In America, the circus brought things to smaller cities that most people thought they would never see--like tigers, lions and elephants.  And to people who did nothing but work and go to church, death-defying trapeze artists and clowns were some big time entertainment.

But now we don't have to wait a year to be entertained like that any more.  I could Google "elephant videos" and get 2.5 million options for seeing pachyderms doing tricks or being cute.  Most zoos have tigers and lions.  We now recognize clowns for the evil beings that they are.  And I could go on Go Pro's website and ride along with daredevils doing crazier stuff than any circus performer could ever hope to do in front of an audience.  Not to mention, I can get it anytime I want, anywhere I want and it's free (except for data charges).

Besides, haven't you always felt a little "dirty" going to a circus?  You knew it was "low rent" entertainment, featuring people that would be considered a very small step up from "carnies".  PT Barnum was the one that coined the phrase "There's a sucker born every minute"--which proved that he knew his shows were a ripoff.  He also famously would hang signs inside the tents pointing "This way to the Egress!!!" knowing full well that most people didn't know what that word meant--finding themselves going out the exit--and required to pay full admission to get back in again.  I'm sure that today's "Special Snowflake Culture" was making it more difficult to find a bearded lady, the world's fattest man and two-headed freaks.

So weep not for the death of the circus.  It will just become a quaint entertainment oddity of our past--like cockfighting, shin-kicking contests, Hee Haw and movies featuring Meryl Streep overacting.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Not Worth a Pitcher of Warm P!$@

The number one thing I won't miss about President Obama after his term ends a week from today is his stunning lack of historical awareness.  The President decided to show that off one more time yesterday during his presentation of Joe Biden with the Medal of Freedom.  In his speech, the President called Biden "The best Vice President America has ever had".  When I heard that, I had to do a double take and ask a Joe Biden kind of question, "Are you effin' kidding me?"

Yes, we have had some real clunkers for Veeps in the past: Dan Quayle, Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew and Walter Mondale spring to mind in recent times--but some of the greatest statesmen in our country's history have also held the position: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and John Calhoun.  We named schools and cities after these guys.  I'm not sure many kids will be attending Joe Biden Elementary School any time soon.

Of course, arguing who is the "best Vice President ever" is a little like Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe spending an hour yelling about who is the best left-handed middle reliever in baseball history.  It's an important position--but not one that really has any major impact.  Adams himself told his wife, "My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived."  FDR's Vice President John Nance Garner took his feeling of insignificance to another level by saying the position "isn't worth a pitcher of warm piss" (and not the Russian hooker kind either).

Some VP's did exert some semblance of power during their terms.  Nixon was dispatched by Dwight Eisenhower to improve relations with the Soviet Union.  Lyndon Johnson called in a lot of political favors--and made a lot of threats--to get John Kennedy's civil rights legislation going in Congress and no one would doubt that Dick Cheney represented the real "power behind the throne" in George W Bush's administration. 

Given the "adventure" upon which we will embark next week, Mike Pence might become the most important VP of all time--since he is not just one heartbeat away from the Oval Office but one scandalous on-line report, one tax return or even one tweet away from ascending to the most powerful position in the world.  Hopefully he won't make us long for the "glorious days of Joe Biden".

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Simple Solution

If social media is to be believed, there is another petition going around demanding that FOX Sports no longer assign Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to broadcast Green Bay Packers games.  The belief is that both "hate the Packers", criticize the team unfairly and don't get as excited about their big plays as they do for the other team's big plays. 

It's entirely possible that Buck and Aikman do hate Green Bay.  They may have grown tired of Aaron Rodgers's smarmy demeanor or Mike McCarthy's doublespeak.  Aikman is a former Cowboy who beat the Packers like a drum during his playing days.  Buck is a St Louis guy, so maybe he grew tired of watching the Lombardi Packers kill the Cardinals every year.

If there is any reason for announcers to "hate" Green Bay, it's likely having to do a game at Lambeau Field in winter.  How much would you enjoy having to work in an open-air booth when it's below freezing and your the only two in the stadium that can't drink to make it feel warmer?  You know who actually does dislike Green Bay?  Al Michaels.  And that is because Al can't get a decent steak in town--and that is all that Al eats for dinner is steak.

There is a very easy solution to getting Joe Buck and Troy Aikman--not to mention Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth off Packers' broadcasts: have the team stink.  Don't make the playoffs.  Don't play games that decide division titles.  Don't have star players that "America wants to see".  You think FOX, CBS and NBC assign their top broadcasting teams to the LA Rams at Cleveland?

When I was a kid, the Packers always had the "C team" announcers.  It will always be the smallest TV market in the league and a 3-4-1 Green Bay versus 4-4 St Louis Cardinals would get guys like Tim Ryan and Johnny Morris or Tom Brookshire and Jim Hill.  You'd sit through that dreck waiting for Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen to do the actually entertaining AFC game on NBC (usually involving the San Diego Chargers or the Oakland Raiders).

Being an also-ran will also make it easier to keep track of when the Packers play.  No more games being flexed to Sunday nights.  No more Monday night games.  Just one Thursday nighter that the NFL requires include every team at least once.  All noon Sunday kickoffs from now on--with Spero Dedes and Soloman Wilcotts on the call.  Unless FOX wanted to punish Green Bay fans for their insolence and they assigned Gus Johnson to scream at the top of his lungs for every play every week.  One quarter of that clown and you will be begging for Buck and Aikman to come back.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Greatest Farewell Address Ever!

Well I must say that I am inspired this morning having just recapped the best farewell address ever delivered by an American President.  I logged onto the Library of Congress website last night and read through George Washington's farewell address to the nation in 1796.  Washington never actually gave the address--as there was obviously no mass media or social media at the time--and addressing large crowds was difficult without amplification of the voice.  Instead, it was published in a Philadelphia newspaper--and then spread to papers across the new country over the next few months.

In the address, Washington touched on subjects that still--221-years later--resonate with the country today.  Famously, Washington encouraged Americans to steer clear of political parties.  He saw that as the source of democracy's downfall--as partisanship would either tear the country apart (as it had in Britain a century before--and as it would in the US 70-years later) or that it would grind Government to a halt with gridlock and in-fighting.  Of course, Washington's warning would be completely ignored in the very next election--as John Adams aligned himself with the Federalist Party and Thomas Jefferson ran as a Democratic-Republican.

In his farewell address, Washington also warned against sectionalism--asking Americans not to see themselves as "New Englanders" or "Southerners", but as Americans striving for a common goal.  Again, this suggestion was ignored as two different countries quickly formed--with the industrial North and the agrarian South headed on an almost inevitable course to civil war over the issue of slavery.

Washington also famously encouraged the US to avoid allying itself with world powers.  Washington had fought on behalf of the British versus the French in the colonies before the Revolution--and he knew that Europe only held more strife, suffering and war in its future and he didn't want to see American lives lost for those hopeless causes.  At least we managed to adhere to that tenet--until the 1910's and the 1940's.

It should be noted that Washington had plenty of help in developing this farewell address.  James Madison actually wrote a draft copy in 1792 in case Washington decided not to run for a second term as President.  Alexander Hamilton apparently took time away from singing and dancing to original show tunes long enough to fine-tune the copy four years later.  But the words still embody the beliefs and wisdom of the man who showed us the way to become the greatest nation in the history of mankind--even if some people still think it requires a major overhaul.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Profiting the Wrong Way

You want a bold prediction about the Donald Trump presidency?  How about my belief that he will be the last person from the "private sector" to seek the office.  People with no previous political experience have been in the White House before--but the process that Trump is going through--and still faces--will pretty much guarantee that only those already in the system will run for President from now on.

The demands to divest one's self from every single investment, business venture and endorsement alone would be enough to deter any business person from seeking the highest office in the land.  George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both retained their plantations during their presidencies and I'm pretty sure they made decisions that benefited those businesses (like not barring slavery, for instance).  Today, political watchdogs are howling that everything Trump does in office will somehow benefit only his business holdings--and that somehow he is supposed to give up all of those investments.

I had to laugh when pundits were discussing who might make a good Democratic challenger for Trump in 2020 and Oprah Winfrey was listed as a possible candidate.  She has since shot down the idea, but President Winfrey would face the same impossible task of divestiture as Trump does.  She has her own name on a TV network and magazines!  Besides, a woman that has a road built across the island of Maui that only she is allowed to drive on isn't going to be any more forthcoming with her personal financial information than Trump has been so far.

Those in the political system already have a great way to enrich themselves that none of the activists seem to worry one bit about: the business of being famous.  Take a look at President Obama's sales numbers for his two auto-biographies before he ran for President--and then after joining the race.  Did anyone demand that the books be taken out of print during his term?  Look up the advances that both President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton were promised to write books on their way out of the White House.  Who picketed outside bookstores to protest those money grabs?  And folks like Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul only exist to be in the Presidential arena for a couple of months and cement their position as "Former Candidate" to put on their "slate of expertise" for big speaking fees and TV appearances.

As much as they want you to believe that they are "simple public servants".  Everyone in the political system is looking to make money just like the folks on Wall Street.  They just do a great job of convincing us that they are "helping us"--when they are really just helping themselves.

Monday, January 9, 2017

A Double Standard

Normally, I'm not one to go around looking for racism in everything that everyone does--but the response we are seeing at all levels of government to the so-called "Opioid Epidemic" really bothers me.  This is not the first "drug epidemic" we have seen and decided to "combat" in America.  You may recall the "Crack Epidemic" of the 1990's--but our response to that was very different--for a very simple reason: the "Crack Epidemic" mainly affected inner city America--while the "Opioid Epidemic" is taking place largely in suburban and rural America.

People who died from crack use were poor minorities--not daughters of state lawmakers, nephews of US Senators or grandchildren of corporate presidents.  Our attitude then was "it's their own fault for doing such a dangerous drug."  Washington DC Mayor Marion Berry became the poster child for the drug, being set up by Federal agents to do the drugs on a hidden camera resulting in his downfall and eventual prison sentence.  Today, opiate and heroin abusers are treated like "victims" with ever-growing support and treatment programs funded by the government to help them kick the habit.  I don't seem to remember that much "concern" for those hooked on crack.

The "Crack Epidemic" also fueled considerable inner city crime and violence--which was met with an almost militaristic response from the Government.  Gangs were blamed for selling and spreading the drug in their neighborhoods.  Hillary Clinton famously labeled them "Super Predators" for getting kids hooked at a young age.  Police departments formed task forces to combat not only the sale of crack but also the gun violence between gangs and the crimes committed by those trying to get money to buy another fix.  And those caught buying, selling possessing or using the drug were convicted of felonies and sentenced to mandatory minimum sentences.

The "Opiod Epidemic" is being treated in the exact opposite way.  Police are now asking addicts to call them for help--no questions asked.  Drug Courts are being set up to prevent first time offenders from getting felony convictions on their records--including those that rob and steal from others to fund their addctions.  And no one is calling the medical professionals that prescribe prescription painkillers to everyone for the slightest discomforts "Super Predators" for setting their patients on the road to addiction.  Instead, we hear how we need to "work with the medical community" to find alternative treatments.

So you have to wonder why we needed to "get tough" to "combat" one drug problem--but now we "need to help" another set of abusers?  Could it be that we believe that we shouldn't be locking up so many "certain people"?

Friday, January 6, 2017

Losing Your Reputation

When the topic of conversation turns to "best fans in the NFL" Green Bay Packers backers are usually placed at the top of the list.  Much is always made about the 319 consecutive sellouts dating back to the 1960's--not to mention the 100,000 people on the season ticket waiting list that will never get a chance to buy those tickets.  They are always considered a "hardy lot"--having survived games entitled the "Ice Bowl" and the "Snow Bowl".  And you can't talk about a Packers game without invoking the "mystique of Lambeau Field".

So why then can't the "Best Fans in Football" sellout a home playoff game?  There are still more than a thousand tickets left for Sunday's Wild Card tilt against the New York Giants.  And tickets that people are looking to resell through reputable sites are going for less than face value.  Not the kind of supply and demand issue you would expect for a team so "beloved and cherished" by their fan base.

Perhaps Packers fans have become spoiled by the success of the franchise over the past 20+ years.  A mere "wildcard game" no longer elicits the kind of excitement in Green Bay that cities like Buffalo, Cleveland and Jacksonville would kill for (although I doubt Jacksonville would sell out a home playoff game either--unless it was against Pittsburgh, New England or the Jets and all of the snowbirds went to watch their hometown teams).  Maybe the Packers overestimated demand for the "game day experience" when they built that upper deck on the south end zone and people just don't see those crappy seats as being worth 115 bucks for a playoff game.

One excuse put out there for the poor playoff ticket sales is that "it's going to be very cold on Sunday".  That whirring sound you hear is my grandparents and all of their brothers and sisters who joined them at Lambeau for the "Ice Bowl" spinning in their graves.  They would be the first to remind you that the air temperature that day was MINUS THIRTEEN DEGREES.  Which will be 26-degrees colder than this Sunday at kickoff.  It won't even be as cold as the last time the Giants came to win a playoff game at Lambeau Field--when everyone thought Tom Coughlin's face was going to fall off from frostbite.

And as for the "Lambeau Mystique", my family will still have a puddle of frozen water (and who knows what else) at their feet when they get to their aluminum bench on Sunday--and the lines to get into the bathrooms will be twice as long--since it will take longer to strip down from the snowmobile pants, jeans, long underwear and Under Armor cold gear to do your business.

Packers fans choosing to stay at home should be glad that NBC doesn't have the broadcast rights to this game--because I highly doubt the local affiliate would have the cash to buy up the remaining unsold tickets by this afternoon's deadline to avoid a TV blackout--like the FOX affiliate will have to do (just like they did the last time the Packers hosted a wild card game).

So the next time you hear a Packers fan boasting about he is one of the "best in the game" remind him of those years when they couldn't even fill Lambeau for a playoff game.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Finally, Some Action

Put down "Rental Registry Program" as cause for Oshkosh residents to actually become politically active.  For the first time in several years, we will have not only contested City Council seats--but the need for a primary to reduce the field of candidates.

The decision by the Council this past year to establish the Rental Registry--and force the inspection of all rental units in the city every five years, along with charging a fee for that "service"--is no doubt the driving force behind this sudden surge in interest in public service.  Landlords are looking at some hefty charges here and they are going to storm City Hall and repeal them.

Now I wonder what it will take to get people fired up about serving on the Oshkosh School Board again.  That "call to action" may be coming this year, as a facilities study will likely recommend doing away with the district's long-standing--and incredibly expensive--commitment to "neighborhood schools".  There is no doubt that the consultants will call for closing some of the oldest buildings and consolidating classes into either existing facilities that have space--or building new and bigger schools in more central locations.

And even if the School Board doesn't go along with those recommendations, it would still be nice to have members that will challenge the status quo.  With apologies to Superintendent Stan Mack, a school board is not meant to be an "advocacy group" that engages in "groupthink".  It is meant to be a public control body serving the will of the people--not administration.

And I don't know what will ever motivate more people to run for the Winnebago County Board.  Again, the vast majority of the current supervisors will not face challengers this spring.  Heck, most people (especially in the cities) could not even name their supervisor.  Perhaps talk of a county sales tax would rustle up some interest in running for those seats.  Or maybe, there just aren't enough crusty old farts around to fill 36-seats.  (Which brings up another tribute project to the late Jeremy Monnett--reducing the County Board to 18--or maybe even 12-districts.)

I guess we will just have to be satisfied with seeing a small amount of political passion in one race this year--and try to build upon that for the spring of 2018.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Much Ado About Nothing Vol 45

If a documentarian wanted to make a movie called Greatest Moments in Inaugural History, what events do you think he or she should include?  Obviously, George Washington's first inaugural should be included.  Maybe Thomas Jefferson's first inauguration--as that represented the first peaceful transfer of power between political parties.  Both of Abraham Lincoln's would definitely have to be in there, given the historical context in which they occurred.  Franklin Roosevelt's first inauguration definitely makes the cut with his "All we have to fear is fear itself" speech.  And John Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" speech would have to be in there. 

Did you notice that there were no "celebrity performances" in that list?  I'm sure there were plenty of people who sang at the ceremonies on the Capitol steps--but did any really represent historic moments?  And there are no inaugural ball moments in there either.  Perhaps you could do a sidelight on the tradition of the first lady wearing different dresses to all of those events--but again, was there anything from dances and dinners of historical consequence?

So why is it such a big deal that certain performers say they want nothing to do with Donald Trump's inauguration?  You could say there is a certain degree of irony in the "Celebrity President" being so unpopular with other people famous only for being famous--but so what?  Let's not forget that an inauguration is just a big celebration of someone starting a new job.  In most workplaces, you are lucky to have cake in the breakroom--and here is CNN doing 20-minutes on what happens if nobody wants to sing the national anthem.

Back to our documentary, a cautionary tale that would also have to be a big part of the movie is William Henry Harrison's inaugural--which should serve as a cautionary tale.  His ceremony was held on a cold, rainy day in Washington.  Harrison did not wear a coat or hat and proceeded to give the longest inaugural speech in history.  He contracted pneumonia and died a few months later--having served the shortest term of any US President.

Weather also curtailed Ronald Reagan's second inaugural as bitter cold enveloped Washington (back in the days when there was genuine concern that the next Ice Age was starting).  The outdoor ceremony at the Capitol was canceled and Reagan took the oath of office inside the White House.  The parade was hastily moved to the old Capital Centre--where the bands and twirlers walked around the arena floor and people sat in the stands.

If I was President-Elect Trump, I would spin the "Inaugural Backlash" into a positive.  Take the oath in a ceremony featuring the Marine Corps Band playing the national anthem.  Give your speech.  Drive over to the White House and "get to work".  We'll even chip in to put a nice cake in the break room.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Hope For the Game

After a weekend of binging on football--both college and professional--I'm seeing a bit of hope for what has become a dying game.  The biggest positive was the firing of San Francisco 49ers Head Coach Chip Kelly.  It is the second year in a row that a team has dismissed Kelly--as the Philadelphia Eagles showed him the door after the 2015 season.  You may recall that when Kelly came to the NFL from the University of Oregon, he was going to "revolutionize the game" with his hurry-up, run-as-many-plays-as-you-can-in-as-little-time-as-possible, spread/read option offense.  And while he enjoyed moderate success his first couple of seasons in Philly (in a very weak division), the style of play never caught on with any other teams--in a league full of copy-cats.

What we learned is that Kelly's style of play only served to wear down your players on the smaller rosters of the NFL, put way too much pressure on your defense--which spends most of the game on the field--and doesn't work nearly as well when everyone on the field is a fast, great athlete--and not some former walk-ons trying to guard your five, super-quick wide receivers.

It's no coincidence that as more coaches at all levels of the sport copied Kelly's style of play we have seen an increase in the number of concussions and other traumatic injuries.  Football is a violent game, and to intentionally increase the number of plays per game intentionally increases the amount of contact players absorb and intentionally increases their exposure to debilitating injury.  Multiply that over the course of 13-games in a college season and 20 pre- and regular season games in the pros and you can see why it is becoming more difficult to keep players healthy in football.

Compare that to what you saw in yesterday's Cotton Bowl between Wisconsin and Western Michigan.  The two teams ran a total of 111 plays--just 14 of which were passes by the Badgers (an amazing 13 of which were completed).  There were a combined 69 running plays.  The game took three hours to play (with an extended halftime) and nobody suffered a catastrophic injury or had to go into the concussion protocol.  All those running plays resulted in lower-speed collisions and more form tackling--as opposed to defensive backs trying to separate receivers from the ball via big hits with a long running start.  Most importantly, the clock ran after most plays and players got a chance to catch their breaths and recover before the next play.

Of course, that game was followed by a Rose Bowl that featured 101 points and that took FOUR AND A HALF HOURS to complete.  Both USC and Penn State should have been relieved the Trojans last second field goal was good, to spare them the stupid and endless college football overtime--which could have gone on for another hour.

Hopefully more coaches at all levels of the game liked what they saw in Dallas yesterday than they did in Pasedena--and bring football back to what it is meant to be.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Resolution Suggestion

If you are still looking to make a New Year's resolution, might I suggest minding your own business.  Really.  Make this the year that before you take any action regarding something someone else is doing, ask yourself "Is that action really having an effect on my life?"  I suggest this because we have way too many people who take it upon themselves to either decide what is right for other people or who feel it is their "duty" to be "offended" on behalf of everyone else.

A perfect example of this came last month when the student-musicians in the Little Wolf High School Jazz Ensemble had to cancel performances at the Winemaker's Daughter--a winery and tasting bar in Manawa.  For some time, the kids were coming in and performing during events at the establishment while people tasted wines and had a good time.  With Jazz not exactly being the hottest musical format right now, those gigs were probably a pretty big deal for the kids in the ensemble--as they were getting to perform just like big time artists.

But that had to be taken away because--GASP--the establishment has a liquor license.  And that fact was brought to the attention of the Manawa School Board last month.  The issue was not raised by a parent of one of the ensemble members.  It wasn't brought up by an employee of the school district.  Instead, the School Board heard a complaint form a "concerned citizen" that teenagers shouldn't be present in an environment where adults are consuming alcohol without a parent present.

Nevermind that the parents of the kids playing had no problem with the venue--and that the teacher that heads up the ensemble program may have helped the students book the gig--or that the liquor license holder likely made it explicitly clear that the band members were not to be served any wine--"concerned resident" knows better--and the Manawa School Board forced the group to cancel another show right before the holidays.

There is a valuable lesson for the kids to learn from this: always work as an "independent contractor".  Don't do any shows as the "Little Wolf High School Jazz Ensemble".  Instead, book your gigs under a different name.  Go with something hip like "Jazz Hands" or "Blowing It Big Time".

And as for everyone who considers themselves a "concerned citizen", resolve to mind your own business from now on.  Or save your concern for when it will actually save someone from real danger.