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.