Friday, June 30, 2017

The New Isolationism

As war raged across Europe in the late 1930's and early 1940's, there was a strong movement in the United States to keep the country out of wars "over there".  Aviator Charles Lindberg was among the most vocal of the "Isolationists"--even going so far at to defend some of the actions of Hitler.  That effort at isolationism failed miserably, as Pearl Harbor dragged the US into the global conflict that perhaps is could have shortened by joining its allies earlier in the fight.

A new type of isolationism is taking root in Washington now--but instead of the entire country trying to wall itself off from what is going on in the rest of the world, it is just President Donald Trump looking to completely alienate himself from everyone.  I'm beginning to think that the President has made it his goal to burn all political capital he can--without actually accomplishing anything in office.

Neither friend nor foe is immune from personal attacks--usually on Twitter at all hours of the day and night.  Intimidation is obviously the MO the President likes to use--escalating actual thought-provoking dialogue into an exchange of insults in a matter of minutes.  Anyone attempting to challenge the President on his thoughts or opinions is not met with reasoned argument--but rather immediate put downs and public shaming.

But what happens when the President has shifted all of the names on the "allies" list to the "enemies" list?  Or what if there is a national crisis and not a single lawmaker, advisor, bureaucrat or pundit is willing to work with the man that went out of his way repeatedly to belittle and intimidate them?  It is certainly not unheard of in the White House.  President Andrew Johnson was so reviled by members of both parties that they all jumped at the first chance to impeach him for a relatively minor offense.

I had to remind myself this morning that we are not even six months into this administration--and the list of those aggrieved by the President could fill a good-sized city's phone book (if there was still a need to public phone books).  Did "drain the swamp" mean drive off everyone in it to leave yourself the king of an empty land?

If he wasn't an admitted animal hater, I'd recommend President Trump follow the advice of another White House isolationist--Harry Truman--who famously said that "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog".  Of course, the President would be on Twitter at 3:45 am telling the world what a lousy pet he had.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Teachable Moment

Whenever something bad happens in the world of academia, those involved always like to say that it is a "teachable moment".  Well, UW-Oshkosh students are going to be receiving a major lesson in why you don't go into debt to buy (or in this case, build) things that you cannot afford.

Off campus, the reaction to the Board of Regents' decision not to bail out the UWO Foundation with taxpayer money is being met with overwhelming approval.  When administrators intentionally circumvent the safety measures and procedures put into place to protect the system and the state from financial threat, it should not be our responsibility to clean up the mess.  When charities over-estimate their ability to raise funds from willing givers, those of us with no choice in the matter should not be treated as a "back up" source of money.  So by not allowing the state to bail out UWO we are seeing a rare example of those responsible for creating a bad situation actually being held accountable.

The Foundation has the money it needs to pay off the loans used to build two bio-digesters and the Alumni Welcome and Conference Center.  Unfortunately, that money funds scholarships for students of all walks of life.  Given that the reputation of the Foundation is about as low as Congress's approval rating, an emergency bailout from donors at this point is highly unlikely--about as unlikely as the Foundation actually getting the cash to fund such useless projects before the scandal broke--so what should have been going to help kids go to school will now go to pay for buildings that provide the college with minimal benefits.

And there is one lesson that the students can learn: "Know the difference between 'needs' and 'wants'"  UWO didn't "need" the small amount of electricity generated by the bio-digesters to power their campus--nor was a conference center with a nice fireplace and ample parking "needed" to keep the college running--but a couple of administrators and Foundation executives "wanted" buildings to stand as monuments to their legacies.  Now I hope the kids that have to shell out more money from their pockets to go to UWO pass those buildings and see them as monuments to greed and arrogance.

Another lesson to be learned here is that Dave Ramsey is 100% correct: "Debt is dumb".  As Dave also likes to say, if you can afford to pay cash for a brand new Mercedes-Benz automobile and it doesn't affect your ability to pay for any of the necessities of life--go ahead and pay cash for that car.  The UWO administrators and Foundation executives had ZERO cash for the projects that now face default.  And obviously, they had grossly over-estimated their ability to come up with the revenues to fund loan payments--well, other than illegally transferring money from the school itself to the Foundation. 

So if the decision by UWO officials years ago means some kids will be denied the opportunity to further their education in Oshkosh, at least those non-students will still be learning some valuable lessons that they probably wouldn't have had they actually stepped foot on campus.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Blackboard Jungle

If you were shocked by the accusations made by a now former Green Bay schoolteacher about the abhorrent behavior of kids at Washington Middle School that led all the local newscasts last night, I encourage you to visit a school more often.  If you don't have time to visit a school, you could also request copies of local police call logs and match up the number of times the addresses of public schools are listed in them.  Or you could purchase a police scanner or download the multiple scanner apps on line to listen through your phone and keep track of the calls yourself.

Every day in our listening area there are reports of "student out of control", "students fighting", "student making threats" or "student walked away from the school" requiring law enforcement's attention.  And that doesn't cover the numbers of incidents where teachers break up altercations or are involved in subduing students.

Not all incidents are as extreme as what the Green Bay teacher described: boys grabbing the butts and breasts of female students and staff, boys exposing themselves to girls and staff, simulated sex on lunchroom tables, verbal abuse of staff by students, threats to attack the school and violent outbursts when cellphones are confiscated from students--plus the usual complaints about drug dealing and usage in the school itself.  Did I mention this was at a middle school--where kids are 12-15 years old?

I've mentioned here before that the rigid structure of schooling that those of us over the age of 35 experienced is long gone.  Today's classrooms and study areas are more like places to "hang out"--and teachers try to be students' friends--not lords of discipline.  Add to that the insistence of placing children with serious behavioral and mental issues in mainstream programs and opposition to having uniformed police present in schools because it "triggers certain student populations" and you have the perfect recipe for the inmates running the asylum.

The carefully crafted--and much delayed--response from the Green Bay School District was as weak as you might expect.  Here's what Superintendent Michelle Langenfeld (or more likely the district's attorney) had to say:

In early May, the Board of Education and administration became aware of the growing staff concerns similar to those shared by Ms. Westcott in June. Upon learning of these concerns, the Board of Education and District Administration took the concerns very seriously. In response, the following occurred:
• We held a meeting with staff.
• Mr. Hoh increased his time at Washington to provide daily on-site support.
• Two District office administrators were deployed daily to Washington Middle School until the end of the school year. Additional staff resources were also provided.
• A second meeting was held in June with Associate Superintendent John Magas, Director of Pupil Services Vicki Bayer and myself after Ms. Westcott’s address to the Board. The purpose of this second meeting was to listen to staff concerns following the infusion of the additional resources and to continue to strategize solutions. Staff reported concerns, but also reported improvements in behavior and reinforced their commitment to the students and families of Washington Middle School and to improving the environment at Washington

You see anything in there that says there was a crackdown on unruly behavior and stiff punishment for those offenders?  Were parents called in and confronted with the mis-deeds of the hellions they are sending to the school every day?  Is there a laundry list of expulsion hearings scheduled for the summer?  Nope.  Just meetings and discussions amongst themselves.

I'm not sure what good it would do to actually involve parents in this process anyway.  Children don't just pick up the actions described by the former teacher out of thin air.  Behavior that is tolerated at home becomes the norm when those kids head to school and the mall and wherever else they choose to hang out.  Perhaps the teacher's impassioned plea for help at Washington Middle School should be inserted into the next episode of The Bachelorette--or become the video you have to watch before you can go to the movie and shows you downloaded from Netflix.  Maybe that would get the attention of those that really need to know what is going on in their children's schools.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Taking the Bait

Tennis legend John McEnroe finds himself having to defend accurate statements about his sport again today.  McEnroe was on National Public Radio over the weekend to discuss his new memoir and the state of tennis as a whole.  The host of the show asked about Serena Williams--who is currently sidelined with a pregnancy--and McEnroe called her the "Greatest women's player ever"--to which the host wondered why McEnroe had to qualify Williams' status by mentioning her gender.

Now at this point, Johnny Mac has to realize that he is about to be used as a pawn in the host's agenda advancement plan.  His pat answer should be "I'm sorry, I should have said that she is the 'most-accomplished tennis player ever'".  With 23-singles Grand Slam titles, 14-doubles Grand Slam Titles and two mixed-doubles Grand Slam titles, this statement is as factually accurate as his initial comment--but doesn't come across as sounding like "male privilege".

But instead, McEnroe took the bait.  He countered that Serena would be "ranked 700 in the world if she played on the men's tour".  This might be a bit low.  I'm pretty sure Serena could have been in the top 150 in her prime years (she is 35-years old now) but everyone would agree that the career numbers listed before would be zeroes if Williams had played her entire career against men.

Serena herself has admitted this in the past.  Here is her direct quote from 2013 on this matter:

“For me, men’s tennis and women’s tennis are completely, almost, two separate sports,” Williams said. “If I were to play Andy Murray, I would lose 6-0, 6-0 in five to six minutes, maybe 10 minutes. No, it’s true. It’s a completely different sport. The men are a lot faster and they serve harder, they hit harder, it’s just a different game. I love to play women’s tennis. I only want to play girls, because I don’t want to be embarrassed.”

The McEnroe controversy now has the national sports shows talking about mixed field tournaments to "prove him right" or to "give women a shot"--but that is just nonsense.  The same goes for a new "battle of the sexes" showdown--similar to the fixed match between 55-year old Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King in her prime back in 1973 that is somehow believed to have "advanced women's rights". 

Just walk away, guys.  This fight just isn't worth it.

Monday, June 26, 2017

No Message

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 23, 2017

An Unwelcome Addition

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Maintaining Separation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bro Country USA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 19, 2017

Not Big Enough

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 16, 2017

One Weird Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 15, 2017

When the "Victims" Strike Back

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Less Than Compelling

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Un-settling the Science

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 12, 2017

Open Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 9, 2017

What Are We Opposing Again?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Name Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Apparently They Don't Know

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 5, 2017

They Still Won't Listen

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 2, 2017

If You Need an Accord, Buy a Honda

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends

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

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

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

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

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

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