Friday, August 18, 2017

The Confederacy of Idiots

Jeez, I take a few days off and America decides to re-fight the Civil War.  152-years after General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse, there is actual bloodshed over how the history of the war should be remembered.  As I've stated here before, those who fly the Confederate flags in front of their homes or who have the giant Stars and Bars on their vehicles are idiots who support a losing cause.  And those that think that taking down statues is somehow going to alter history (on both sides) are just as big as idiots.

If no statues were ever erected in honor of General Lee, would he be any less remembered for the major role he played in US history?  Would military historians spend no time studying his tactics--which allowed an under-manned, under-supplied, and under-funded army to win more battles than they lost for the better part of four years? 

It was under-reported this week that the National Parks Service issued a statement that Confederate memorials on the Gettysburg Battlefield--and other Civil War sites around the US will not be taken down or altered--as they stand as important historical monuments to men that actually existed.  Despite what hatred you think existed in the hearts of those soldiers, Pickett's Charge did happen.

Seeking to capitalize on the media frenzy this week, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin has ordered the removal of a memorial to Confederate soldiers that died at Camp Randall.  Soglin believes it to be offensive that terms like "valiant" were included on the monument.  He says that a "proper" memorial will go up in its place--with his version of history.

And what comes next after all physical symbols of the Confederacy are removed from our nation?  We still won't have forgotten about it, because millions of pages of books are dedicated to the cause--not to mention countless hours of film--documentary and drama--that do not portray every soldier, politician and resident of The South as white supremacists and traitors to their country.  Textbooks will be the first to be re-written--with Civil War reference books and period pieces heavily scrutinized and removed from school libraries.  Public library shelves will be stripped bare next--or new print editions with modern interpretations will be published to replace those that accurately detailed the War Between the States for 150-years.

The folks at Colonial Williamsburg, Monticello and Mount Vernon may want to start polishing up the resumes, because those versions of "living history" appear to be short-lived as well.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Primary Objective

A couple of months ago, it looked like the Democratic party was going to struggle to field a viable candidate for governor in 2018.  Big name after big name announced they were going to pass on challenging Scott Walker--who will be running his fourth campaign for the office in just the last eight years.  But as President Trump's lack of public support and Congress' failure to pass healthcare reform drags down the Republican party at every level, a surprising number of Dems see this as a chance to take advantage of potential backlash next year.

Based on how many people have already formed campaign committees--or who tell the media they are going to run--we could have a primary field as large as ten candidates before anyone even starts paying attention to the race.  And with that many people in the contest, it's highly unlikely the August 2018 primary will yield a majority candidate.

But wouldn't it be fun if we selected our nominees for governor the same way we do our candidates for President?  I'm talking about a protracted primary campaign that would allow candidates to build momentum throughout the year--or for a darkhorse to emerge from nowhere on the strength of a good showing in some part of the state, causing the frontrunner to have to rethink their strategy.

We have an Iowa County here in Wisconsin, so let them be the first to vote in this process next January.  Just like the state for which it is named, it is mostly rural so candidates would really have to work to get out and meet voters.  We could even let them hold caucuses instead of a formal primary vote just to make it more interesting.  From there, we could hold the first primary in someplace like Marinette County in February--again with a small population base for easy campaigning.  There could even be a "Super Tuesday" in April where Milwaukee and Dane Counties--and maybe 15 more around the state--could hold their primaries all on the same day to allow a clear front-runner to emerge.  From there, staggered elections the rest of the spring would force candidates to travel to all corners of the state to hawk for votes.

A true primary process would certainly make for a more interesting race and give us more to talk about for the next year than just campaign finance statements--which will be how the Democratic nominee will actually be selected.  Whoever runs the most ads before the August primary will probably win.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

One Second to Midnight

In the past, when there has been a perceived threat of nuclear war we always has a comforting sense that the people involved in the rhetoric or the standoff were men of reason and caution.  Kennedy and Khrushchev, Reagan, Brezhnev and Gorbachev were not rash men.  Their statements were measured.  They appeared firm but also gave the other side a way out of the situation that didn't involve embarrassment or perceived weakness.

Do you feel that level of comfort in anyway this week?  "Reason", "caution" and "measured" are anything but the terms you would use to describe Kim Jong Un or Donald Trump--and that is what makes this international confrontation so much more dangerous than any other in the Nuclear Age. 

Phrases like "fire and fury the likes of which the world has never seen" is the kind of stuff you expect to hear from the dictator of some third-world nation like North Korea or from one of the Militant Islamic Terror groups--not from the President of the United States.  And it is statements like that which erode international support for your position--because you come off as just as insane at the attention-desperate despot that is threatening you.

Besides, when has any adversary given their enemy the "heads up" on actual military attacks?  Did emperor Hirohito appear on state radio and say "The United States must allow us to expand our empire without opposition in the Pacific or we will bomb Pearl Harbor"?  Did Harry Truman hold a press conference to announce that unless Japan surrendered he would drop nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?  Did Osama Bin Laden issue an internet video announcing Al Qaeda's plans to hijack planes and crash them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?  It's only when the threat of attack is all you have, that you threaten attacks.

One of the best campaign ads that Hillary Clinton ran during her first failed campaign for President featured the "Red Phone" ringing in the middle of the night, asking voters if they wanted the "inexperienced" Barack Obama to be the one answering that call.  Unfortunately, that kind of stuff doesn't matter to Democratic primary voters who thought it would be cool to elect a "first ever" kind of President.  I was surprised she didn't bring it back last year, given the even more ill-prepared opponent she faced in that race.  Anyway, if that phone rings in real life, are you confident in the person who will answer it?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Long and the Short of It

The PGA of America is trying something almost revolutionary for the world of professional golf this week--it is allowing players to wear shorts during their practice rounds for the PGA Championship.  In a sport where old traditions die very hard, this is an almost stunning move into the 20th Century.  Of course, the PGA isn't allowing shorts during competitive rounds when the vast majority of people are watching on TV--wouldn't want to get too carried away here.

While I am a traditionalist, I applaud the idea of allowing professional athletes to wear clothing that helps their performance.  Yes, golf is still a gentlemen's game, but today's golf shorts are a far cry from what you see in those dreadful photos of your father or grandfather playing in "short shorts" with the high waist bands and no belts back in the 1970's and '80's.  Plus, today's modern golfer tends to be more athletic and toned than his predecessors--so chafed thighs or thick leg hair are less likely.

There were a few fashion faux pas yesterday at Quail Hollow.  Phil Mickelson came out in black shoes and black anklet socks for his practice round.  Definitely not a good look.  If you are going shorts, white shoes and white socks are a must.  I'm sure that all of the equipment makers liked seeing their pros modeling their performance shorts--all of which are available on-line and at your local golf shop.

What's interesting is that while the PGA is encouraging its players to show a little more skin, the LPGA is telling its ladies to please wear more clothing.  Earlier this summer the women's golf tour issued new apparel guidelines that mandate the length of shorts and skirts and required shoulders and cleavage to be covered. 

As you might expect, this announcement was met with immediate backlash on social media and from talking heads on TV--accusing the men running the LPGA of sexism and misogyny.  "Why are men threatened by women's bodies?" and "Women should be allowed to dress in whatever way they want without judgement by men" were the common responses.  However, all of that talk went away when a number of LPGA players said that it was the women on the tour themselves that demanded the new dress code--as they were tired of seeing buns hanging out of the bottom of outfits and tops that looked like the player was going to beach and not the golf course.

I have a feeling the new dress code for the LPGA will stem the growing tide of "golfer/models" on tour and return the media spotlight to those that actually play good instead of just look good.  As for the guys, the greater depth in talent should keep any Justin Bieber wannabes from turning the fairways into the fashion runways.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Freedom to Sit Out

At a time of year when ESPN is usually breaking down the battle for the third tight end positions in every team's training camp, the main topic of discussion this year is a player that is currently not on any NFL roster.  "Why hasn't anyone signed Colin Kaepernick?" is topic 1A for all of the network's "People yelling at each other" shows every day.  And the general consensus is that Kaepernick has not been signed by anyone--after opting out of his contract in San Francisco--because NFL owners are racist or don't believe in free speech.

Kaepernick came to national attention by taking a knee during the National Anthem before games as a protest of treatment of African-Americans in the US.  He had already been demoted to backup QB by that time, so arguments that the protests cost him his starting spot are inaccurate.  Most of his teammates rallied to his defense--as did some other players around the league.  But most owners were steadfast in insisting that their players stand respectfully for the Anthem.

While a few teams did dangle the possibility of signing Kaepernick in the offseason, nothing got done before training camp.  A few coaches and general managers of teams with solid quarterbacking situations tried the disingenuous route of saying they would sign Colin--"but we don't really need a QB".  Others have justified their signing of older, less-talented QB's by saying those guys would be a "better fit for our system".

There appeared to be some hope for Kaepernick this weekend, as Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill suffered a knee injury in practice and the team needed a new starter.  But then the sizable Cuban-American population in Miami began to question Colin's wearing of a t-shirt last year that showed a photo of Malcolm X with Fidel Castro and the phrase "Like minds think alike".  And an interview with the Miami Herald quickly went downhill as Kaepernick tried to defend Castro--which not only burned any bridge that might have existed toward a job in South Florida but also tore it down and buried it in a landfill.  Miami decided it would rather have the retired Jay Cutler run their team this season.

As I have expressed here before, Colin Kaepnernick has every right to express himself and protest against this country in any form he sees fit.  But everybody else is entitled to their reaction to his protests and comments--and if that reaction is to sign other marginal quarterbacks for their football teams--then that is the "price to pay" I guess.  Although is does spare us a thirty minute breakdown of what outside linebacker is best suited to play in the Eagles' new 3-4 defense.

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Show That Made a Difference

Today marks the final day that the Dave Ramsey Show will air here on WOSH.  The decision was not made by those of us here at the Radio Ranch--but rather by those in Dave's company.  This will be tough for me, as the Dave Ramsey Show has had a huge impact on the lives of both me and my wife.  Since getting on the "Dave Plan" we have paid off more than 160-thousand dollars in debt--including our mortgage--and we are well on our way to saving for an early retirement.

Whenever I was having a tough day, I knew I could turn on Dave and be reminded of what we have overcome so far, and what a difference we will be able to make in the future.  And I know there are a number of you that have also been working the "Dave Plan" to take control of your financial future as well.

But my own "journey" isn't even my favorite "Dave story".  It's actually this from Winneconne Village Administrator Mitch Foster and his wife Becky:

I'm sorry we can't continue to bring you this positive and empowering program on a daily basis anymore.  Again, it certainly was not our decision.  In the meantime, Phil Valentine will be here on Monday afternoon telling you what idiots liberals are.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

My Fair Lady

For the first time since I was a young child, I will be going to the Wisconsin State Fair this weekend.  I've always considered the Fair to be the second-rate cousin to SummerFest in terms of Milwaukee-based attractions, as SummerFest usually had a bunch of really cool bands to see and the Fair usually had the Beach Boys and the Turtles.

What's more, the Fairgrounds struck me as being rather worn down and kind of dumpy.  Old, hot wooden building that didn't smell very good and made you feel kind of uncomfortable going into them.  And then, of course, you had the security concerns.  Who can forget Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett being attacked by hooligans that had just been thrown out of the Midway area a few years ago?  It's not exactly the best advertising for your event when a guy making appearances around the state as a candidate for Governor has a big cast on his hand along with cuts and bruises on his face.

But this spring, I had the opportunity to check out the State Fair grounds again when I attended the Milwaukee Golf Show--and you could tell that the Fair organizers have put a great deal of money and effort into modernizing and upgrading the facilities.  The buildings look much cleaner and the food stands are more presentable.  New attendance and behavior policies have been put into place to take back the Midway area from the hoods that would take over after dark--and security has been ramped up to protect fairgoers.

The State Fair will never be a haven for big name entertainment on the Main Stage--tonight its a collection of 80's one-hit wonders that will each do short sets--but there is still enough acts to make a day there worthwhile.  I'm looking forward to the "Beatles Sing Along" on one of the stages.  And my wife wants to catch pig racing.  Yes, we are getting old.

Interestingly, it is now SummerFest that we have not attended in a long time--as the last time we were there, I had beer spilled on me just four steps onto the grounds and a guy was stabbed near the stage where we were watching the DropKick Murphys.   Add to that the increasingly terrible traffic patterns to get to downtown Milwaukee and a shorter trip to West Allis becomes more attractive.

I'm putting the over/under on cream puffs consumed this weekend at 3.5.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The New Up North

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel sparked some lively debate this summer when they asked "where does 'Up North' begin in Wisconsin.  An interactive on-line poll tried to use highways as "markers" for the start of the region.  There were suggestion that "Up North" starts at Highway 10. Other choices included Highway 8 and all the way up to Highway 2--which would be about two percent of the entire state.

Personally, I would say that "Up North" starts at Highway 64 in the east--so that Marinette isn't included--but lake towns like Crivitz and Wausaukee are and it includes everything north of Antigo--which is the last of the "big cities" on Highway 45.  Where 64 hits Highway 51, you head south to Wausau and then across the state on Highway 29.  Everything north of that is "Up North".

However, "Up North" isn't as "Northy" as it used to be.  When my family started going "Up North", we had one of those Winnebago-type trailers with the table that folded down to make the second bed.  There was no electrical hookup, so entertainment was listening to Brewers games on the AM radio or cassette tapes of our albums recorded with a mono tape recorder.  And while it may have had a bathroom, we used the outhouse.

From there we graduated to "The Shack", a one room structure that at least had electricity--so you could watch whatever was on the one channel you could get without an antenna on the black and white television.  And there was still no bathroom.  Now, because they live there in the summer, my folks are in a "Lake House" with three functioning toilets, satellite tv and wifi internet.  Not exactly "roughing it".

Plus the towns "Up North" aren't the same anymore.  I thinks it was about 20-years ago that the Chicago Tribune Sunday Magazine had a front page story "Eagle River: The New Door County".  And sure enough, the monied Illinoisians descended upon that area in droves--driving up property values and bringing with them the kind of over-priced lifestyle items that ruined the quaintness of Door County a generation before.

The only reason to go into Three Lakes back in the day was for the Water Ski show, or to eat at the Copper Kettle Restaurant--home of the World Pancake Hall of Fame.  Now, Three Lakes is best known for its winery.  Yes, Three Lakes has a winery.  Dining selections in Eagle River used to be the A&W, a couple of pizza places or a burger at a bar.  Now, there are upscale eateries that require reservations, that have giant. glasse-enclosed wine cellars where someone has to get on a ladder to pull out the bottle you want, and where Friday Fish Fry is some pecan-crusted sea bass.

The moccasin and fudge shops on the downtown main drag now sit next to art galleries and stores stocked with high-end designer "outdoor apparel" and "trekking gear".  And of course, everywhere you go there is "free wi-fi" to help you "stay connected". 

So while you may be "going Up North", it's not like you are really "getting away from it all" anymore.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Just Let Them Run Away?

Under current law, the orders of a police officer are to be obeyed at all times.  Failure to comply is a crime.  So is attempting to flee an officer.  As is resisting arrest.  But as public scrutiny of fatal shootings that stem from the commission of these crimes increases, don't be surprised if efforts are made to undermine the legal standing of commands by police.

The idea of "right to flee" or "right to resist" may already have legal precedent.  The Massachusetts State Supreme Court last year threw out a man's felony weapons conviction because it found that police didn't have probable cause to chase after him when he ran away as officers tried to question him about an unrelated robbery.  In their ruling, the justices even went so far as to write that African-Americans in Boston should be allowed to flee police--due to the department's record of racial profiling.

There have also been cases where defendants have successfully argued that they had a right to fight back against arresting officers due to a fear that they themselves would beaten.  A number of police departments have adopted policies that they will not engage suspects in high speed pursuits--hoping that they can later identify and apprehend those criminals in less-dangerous situations.  The cumulative effect of these decisions is that efforts to evade or resist arrest are given legitimacy--making modern policing even more difficult.

We may be forced to ask ourselves some very difficult questions as a society: Is a situation that threatens "just" the life of a police officer justification for his or her use of deadly force?  Should criminal suspects be given legal avenues of escape?  Should arrest just be a voluntary thing?  And should police be disarmed like their counterparts in Europe--where officers are forced to fight bomb and gun-toting terrorists and criminals armed only with batons?

Personally, I prefer a society where the legitimate commands of an officer hold the force of law.  I want police to make every effort to take criminal suspects into custody as quickly as possible by whatever legal means are necessary.  And I want officers to be able to defend themselves with deadly force if they have identified a real threat to their personal safety.  In the meantime, all of us can make sure we stay out of situations where law enforcement needs to be arresting us.