Thursday, August 31, 2017

Look For the Helpers

Whenever natural disasters or tragedies strike, I like to think of the advice Fred Rogers--or Mister Rogers for those old enough to remember--provided when he was asked how to talk to kids about such big and scary events:

“My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”

While Mr Rogers offered this advice for parents, those of us in the media should be more inclined to follow it as well. 

I guess we have to blame the 24-hour news cycle that requires "exclusive content" or "breaking news" every 30-second out of fear that the viewer or listener is going to get bored and move on to another station or website--but we got way off-base with some of the stuff that received major coverage this week.  We can start with First Lady Melania Trump's footwear on her visit to the disaster zone.  Some poor fact-checker in a New York newsroom probably had to peruse countless on-line shoe catalogs to determine the exact height of the stiletto heels so the talking head going on about how "clueless the Trumps are" could sound "informed".

Then we got sidetracked by Joel Osteen and his church having to be publicly shamed into providing assistance to flood victims.  Can you remember any stories about the pastors that were out there in the waist high water helping evacuees?  I can tell you that every social media user wanted us to know that the mosques of Houston were open for evacuees seeking shelter.

And then there was the continuous selling of the "victimization angle".  While it won't win an Edward R Murrow Award or a Peabody the CNN reporter getting cussed out on live TV by a harried evacuee for whom "how does it feel to be flooded out of your home" became the straw that broke the camel's back:


What we really needed was more coverage like that of Sally Jenkins from the Washington Post who expressed in an article on the "Cajun Navy" surprise that backwoods "rednecks" from East Texas and Louisiana would come to Houston on their own time and their own dime to not only help people they don't know--but to be more effective than the government first responders with the expensive high-tech equipment and training.  And we need to not only spotlight Wisconsinite JJ Watt for his social media fundraising efforts--but all of those who have contributed to his cause.

So if you can sift through the articles and reports on "Trump didn't even talk to or hug any of the victims" stuff--and look for the helpers--you will find the real stories in this disaster.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Not Another New Orleans

Don't be surprised if four or five years from now there will be a number of on-line articles or news network features on the vast differences between how New Orleans recovered from Hurricane Katrina and how Houston bounced back from Hurricane Harvey.  Much will be made about how the "Crescent City" continues to feel the effects of the devastation in 2005--while "H Town" will be back to the bustling metropolis it was before this week.

The biggest advantage that Houston has is that it is the hub of America's energy industry.  Giant oil and natural gas companies are based there--employing hundreds of thousands of people in both production, processing and administration.  America runs on cheap energy and those companies need to be working at all times to prevent this from becoming a national disaster.  That urgency alone will ensure that resources needed for infrastructure, housing and supply chain restoration will take place--and take place quickly.

While it is an important shipping and port city, New Orleans does not have that "corporate" attitude.  Anyone who's been there can tell you "The Big Easy" lives up to that moniker--as the folks there aren't going to bust their butts to get something done that can't wait until tomorrow--or next year.  New Orleans is really a dumpy tourist town.  What were the first areas to be "restored" after Katrina?  The French Quarter, the Superdome and the Convention Center area--so that the people who don't live there could "return to normalcy".

Add to that the fierce independence of Texans.  Houston officials and residents would be embarrassed if five or ten years from now they weren't back to being the "biggest and the best".  And they won't be blaming "the Government" for not doing enough to help the recovery.

That doesn't mean that everything will go back to exactly the way it was before.  Like low-income parts of New Orleans, depressed sections of Houston will likely never bounce back.  Those that are displaced by Harvey will never come back--set adrift like many that came to Houston from New Orleans in the wake of Katrina--and never had a reason to return.  Hopefully, they will move on to places not along the Gulf Coast this time.

While the scenes of devastation after the flood waters recede will look the same, the paths that America's two latest disaster zones will take from here couldn't be any more different.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Scapegoat

It appears that the public has found its scapegoat for the hurricane and flooding in Houston.  You may recall that the person blamed for all failures during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in FEMA Director Michael Brown--especially after President Bush told the world "Brownie's doin' a great job" while news video continued to show people hoping to be rescued from their roofs.  President Bush was blamed as well--because he didn't come to New Orleans soon enough (because he was a racist that didn't care about the predominantly black victims of the flooding)--as opposed to President Trump, who is being criticized for coming to Houston too soon because resources used to protect him and coordinate the visit should be used in search and rescue efforts.

Amazingly, the scapegoat for Hurricane Harvey is not a Republican politician or a political appointee.  Instead, public scorn has turned against Pastor Joel Osteen.  If the name sounds familiar, you have likely seen Osteen's televised sermons--or seen him interviewed on talk shows--usually about coping with disaster or loss.  Osteen is the pastor at Lakewood Church--a mega-church that purchased the former Summit Arena where the Houston Rockets used to play in order to seat more than 16-thousand people for their services. 

Lakewood Church is coming under fire because it closed its doors this week--and is not taking in evacuees from flooded parts of the city.  "Church officials"--not Osteen himself--issued a press release stating that the area around the church is inaccessible--which led hundreds of people to drive down to the church site and post pictures on-line of non-flooded streets and a building with the lights still on.  Many of those posts are then followed by pictures of Osteen's multi-million dollar estate--from where he is believed to be tweeting generic bromides about grace and faith.  Lakewood is adding to the public outrage by launching a hurricane relief donation page that does not promise to share the money with the Red Cross or other disaster relief groups--but rather will go to Lakewood itself and its "efforts to rebuild the community".

Contrast that to former Wisconsin Badger and current Houston Texans defensive lineman JJ Watt, who is becoming even more of a hero in Houston by donating $100,000 to hurricane relief efforts and challenging his fans to contribute even more.  That fund is quickly approaching a million bucks. 

Is Joel Osteen to blame for a hurricane hitting Houston--stalling along its path and dumping prodigious amounts of rain upon the area?  Obviously not--despite his claims to have "connections" with the power his followers believe controls such phenomenon.  But failing to follow through on the promise of service and aid to those in need certainly makes you an easy target.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Since Demand is Dwindling....

If the city of Oshkosh is going to sell Lakeshore Golf Course for a new Oshkosh Corporation world headquarters, or for residential development or even for retail use, I hope that it is not just for a one-time cash grab--but rather it is done as part of a comprehensive review of recreational programs throughout the city.  Most city parks--not just those in Oshkosh--are based on a 60-year old concept of people's activities and interests.  If city leaders and Councilmembers are as "progressive" as they claim to be, ALL parks facilities would be brought up to "modern" usage and demand.

Let's start with ball diamonds.  Most of the facilities in Oshkosh were built in the 1950's when baseball was "America's Pastime".  Neighborhood kids would congregate in the morning--choose up sides--and play until their mother's called them home for dinner.  Now, those diamonds sit empty nearly all day--until the organized leagues come in to use them for just a couple of months out of the year.  And those leagues are struggling to maintain participation levels--so much so that the YMCA now runs youth baseball in the city--while OYB just fields the more-profitable traveling all-star teams.  Adult softball is seeing a precipitous drop in league play as well, as people find plenty of other activities to fill their summer nights.  Doing away with many of the ball diamonds in Oshkosh--and having the Y host their leagues on their site--would open up space in Menominee Park for high-end lakeview condos and room for more senior living in Red Arrow Park.

Playgrounds are another archaic recreational idea that take up space and city resources.  When was the last time you told your child to go to the playground--without your supervision--to play for the day?  "Stranger danger" has all but killed hanging out at the park--and today's "safety first" equipment is boring.  That's what makes the equipment fertile grounds for vandalism--nobody is ever using it.  And when families do come down to swing or slide, the kids usually grow bored within 20-minutes and want to watch videos on the Ipod.  There is additional space the city can sell for boutique coffee shops next to the aforementioned senior living and condo units.

Even vast green spaces are underutilized today.  You can't play fetch with your dog off a leash--and there is a dogpark for that already in town.  The idea of bringing a picnic to the park to eat on a blanket spread on the ground is so old-fashioned that it makes people laugh.  It's so much easier to grab drive-thru at the fast food place and eat in your car.  Limiting our recreational areas to pavilions that generate rental income or bike and walking trails that take up less space and appeal to the few people who want to get out and be active makes far more sense.

And don't think that our decreased demand for recreation space and programs is just a temporary thing.  TV networks are considering covering "eSports"--just like they do professional leagues like the NFL and Major League Baseball.  That means our next generation of "stars" will be inspired not to field grounders from Dad at the neighborhood diamond or to work on their jump shots at the concrete courts but rather to spend more time on their couch hooked up to a virtual reality headsets and game controllers.

So go ahead and put all the research into selling Lakeshore Golf Course you need to do, Oshkosh officials.  It's the first step toward our inevitable future as a fat and lazy city.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Foxconn Yawn

I just can't get excited about the Foxconn deal.  For starters, Governor Scott Walker's insistence that the project be called "Wiscon Valley"--trying to be cute and steal from "Silicon Valley"--is annoying and anyone else in the media using that term should be taken out behind the woodshed.  Secondly, I'm just not a big fan of the company.  Critics are right, they have a track record of splashy announcements and promises of development--that fall through under questionable circumstances.

The main thing for me is I worry about the quality of the goods they will be manufacturing here.  I get the feeling that the flat-screen monitors that will be built in Wisconsin will be the kind that Walmart, Target and Kohl's sell as "doorbusters" on Black Friday--not the top-of-the-line stuff but so cheap that you feel it's okay to buy them as a gift because it will make you look like a big spender.  Then you see they are some brand you never heard of, like ASUS or Element.  Oh well, good enough for the 4-year old to have in her bedroom.

For three billion dollars, we should be able to lure some kick-butt American companies to Wisconsin.  It would be awesome if we could be home to a new Jeep Wrangler production facility.  How much more American could you get than to have two icons--Jeeps and Harleys--made just a few miles apart?  General Electric recently announced it was moving from Connecticut to Boston--maybe we could have made a late pitch to score that relocation.  Door County could take the place of vacation homes in the Hamptonss for all of those corporate executives.

For three billion bucks, the state could set up the Oshkosh Corporation with the new world headquarters it wants right here in town without bulldozing over Lakeshore Golf Course.  That should be more than enough money to buy out all of the property owners along the lake on the opposite side of Interstate 41 for a shiny new building on the water.

Will the investment in Foxconn really pay off in the long run?  Probably.  Will more tech companies look to locate facilities in our state?  More than likely.  But will it be an exciting growth industry that becomes a source of pride for Wisconsin--or just a bunch of big buildings between Milwaukee and Chicago where people work at mundane jobs?  I'm thinking it will be the latter.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Not "That" One

In the TV show Seinfeld, Elaine once dated a man that shared a name with serial killer Joel Rifkin.  Of course, in the episode Joel is paged by the public address announcer at Giants Stadium during a football game, leading Elaine to have to explain "He's not that one" to all of the fans around them.  She tries to convince him to change his name--even suggesting "OJ"--which is ironic, as that episode aired just a couple of months before OJ Simpson's infamous white Bronco chase on national TV and his being charged with killing his ex-wife, Nicole, and Ron Goldman.

Now in the latest episode of life imitating art, sportscaster Robert Lee finds himself embroiled in a controversy over his name.  No doubt you've heard that ESPN pulled Lee off the play-by-play for the University of Virginia football game against William and Mary over concerns that his sharing a name with a Confederate general would be inappropriate after what happened in Charlottesville last week.  After news of the transfer was leaked to a website by someone inside of ESPN, the network tried to explain the move as "protection" for Lee--whom they feared would be the butt of on-line jokes and social media memes.

I'd be willing to bet that if ESPN had not made the switch, and Lee did the UVA game next week, there would have been no backlash--from internet trolls or the easily-offended people on the Left--because no one would have noticed.  Virginia-William and Mary was going to be on ESPN3--which is a streaming-only service.  Diehard Cavalier fans would have logged on to watch--and I'd be willing to bet that the last time any of them thought about the Civil War was in their 8th grade US History class.  And the only thing that would have offended social activists on the Charlottesville campus that Saturday afternoon is the William and Mary team name: The Tribe.

But now, poor Robert Lee will have no choice but to adopt a new on-air name (which is very common in TV and Radio anyway).  "Bob Lee" won't work--because ESPN already has a Bob Ley--who has been with the network since it's inception in 1979 and somehow has never once been considered offensive to African-Americans or inappropriate for broadcasting an event in The South.  Some names he might want to avoid: Chris Columbus, Jeff Davis and Joe Goebbels.  He'll probably still want to pass on OJ as well.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Total Eclipse of the Brain

Because nothing can't be politicized nowadays, a meme started making the rounds this week asking why everyone accepted the predictions of the solar eclipse without question.  It was meant to chide global warming "deniers" or global warming "enjoyers" like me.

But what the meme creator is missing is that no one was demanding major economic and social changes in order to "prevent" the eclipse.  There was no adoption of international treaties meant only to limit the growth of Western economies.  Nobody was proposing shutting down entire industries because of the eclipse.  Cheaper forms of energy weren't being replaced with more expensive and less reliable power sources.  And nobody wanted to ban certain types of light bulbs for use during the eclipse.

If anything, the eclipse did more to "speed up" climate change--and it was those "most concerned" about it that were doing most of the damage.  Consider that Alaska Airlines provided a charter flight that flew into the shadow of the moon over the Pacific Ocean and then went back to the airport from which it took off.  Jet fuel was wasted and more carbon was put into the atmosphere just so about 200-people could see the eclipse "first".  A cruise ship company also sent out a boat with Bonnie Tyler singing "Total Eclipse of the Heart"--for people who wanted to be the "last" to experience the eclipse.

Then there were the millions of Americans that drove hundreds and thousands of miles to be in the "path of totality"--and then idled in heavy traffic in towns not able to handle so much congestion.  The TV networks that broadcast all of the climate change alarm reports and specials on the horrible future that awaits all of us, broadcast live for several hours from locations all across the country--sending their satellite signals back using trucks idling for hours burning diesel gas.  NASA--home of so many of the "concerned climate scientists" flew several planes in the eclipse path (granted, for research purposes).  And millions of plastic and chemical-coated "eclipse glasses" are on their way to landfills across the country this week--where they will sit for decades.

And all of this carbon burning and energy usage went toward those "concerned about the environment" to spend about two minutes in the shadow of the moon.  Of course, they described it as a "lesson in how fragile our planet is"--oblivious to their own hypocrisy.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Unwinnable Wars

It sounds like President Trump is going to follow in the footsteps of all his predecessors dating back to Harry Truman in continuing to fight unwinnable wars.  The US used to be pretty good at winning armed conflicts--beating Britain twice, Spain, Mexico, the Confederacy, Germany twice, Austria and Japan.  But now, we don't "win" any of our wars.

Of course, it's nearly impossible to win wars when your strategy is "limited engagement".  We are more of a "total war" kind of country--where sheer resources and overpowering force can be brought to bear against our enemies.  Limited engagement handcuffs our military and gives our enemies the benefits of time and space to outlast our willingness to fight.

Did FDR ever say "Our fight is not with the German people but rather with just the Nazis?"  or "Our only goal is to drive out the War Council and allow the Japanese people to live in peace"?  No distinction was drawn between the people within those countries that wanted to destroy us and those who may not have harbored any ill will.  Everyone that died in the fire-bombings of Dresden and
Tokyo and the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were "enemy combatants".  And it was only when those nations' ability to wage war was destroyed, that the wars finally came to an end.

Compare that to today's military strategies, where small bands of American soldiers win hard-fought territory--driving out Al Qaeda or ISIS from a city or village--only to see those fighters return in a year or two.  Of course, it would help if the people that we are "liberating" in those areas would see the terrorists as their "enemies" as well--instead of their brothers, sons and nephews.

And that is why we have a North Korea to continue to menace the world 70-years after that war.  And its why Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq dragged on as our longest wars.  "Limited engagement" means "unlimited fighting". 

So that is why I continue to promote the withdrawal of our troops from the current theaters in the War on Terrorism.  But we will leave with a warning: If there is another attack upon our soil, we will determine where those attackers came from and what countries provided them shelter, training and aid--and we will not differentiate between the residents of that country and the terror groups they shelter.  And then return to those countries with the overwhelming force necessary to eradicate them from the face of the earth.

Wars like that will mean sacrifice on the homefront--like our grandparents experienced during World War II--and that will be good, because when you feel the effects of a war every day, you are more likely to want it to end as quickly as possible.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Casting a Long Shadow

So I was wracking my brain trying to remember what it was like the last time we had a major solar eclipse here in the US.  It was February 26th of 1979 and I was in first grade at Saint Mary's Catholic School in Clarks Mills.  For some reason I couldn't come up with any mental image of what the eclipse was like and it frustrated me.  And then I remembered, the nuns of Saint Mary's wouldn't let us outside for the eclipse that day--going so far as to cancel recess--because they weren't going to let all the kids blind themselves looking at the sun.

It was a very different world in 1979.  You couldn't order a pair of "solar eclipse glasses" from Amazon Prime and have them delivered to you the next day--just in time for viewing.  I saw some film clips of old newscasts this weekend showing people watching the eclipse through smoked glass plates.  Kids were taught how to make "pinhole projectors" from cardboard boxes and pieces of white paper so you could see the shadow of the eclipse while looking away from the sun. 

There was no "live coverage" of the '79 eclipse either.  I think our school had one television to be shared by all grade levels--and it was hooked up to a VCR unit that was the size of a microwave oven today.  We didn't have much to watch on TV in the classroom back then--as "audio/visual" meant a filmstrip projector and a record player with the "beep" to let you know when to advance to the next frame.  Besides, the three TV networks at the time weren't going to pre-empt afternoon soap operas just to show the moon passing in front of the sun.

Today, even those on the other side of the world will be able to "live stream" eclipse coverage from nearly the entire length of the eclipse as it passes over the US from the ground, from airplanes flying along the eclipse route and even from space.  Played on an Ultra High Definition Screen, it will be as crystal clear as if you were standing in the narrow seventy-mile path of totality--and you won't have to fight the insane traffic as people from all over the world try to find a spot across the country to view it.

And that streaming video coverage may unfortunately be the way that we here in the Fox Valley have to watch the eclipse.  In keeping with one of the worst weather summers ever, we are going to have mostly cloudy skies here this afternoon--potentially blotting out the sun.  Apparently, just one day without rain and clouds was too much to ask for.

If the clouds do linger this afternoon, I will log on to NASA's website and get the total eclipse streamed live.  That pretty much counts as "experiencing it in real life" nowadays--and Sister Clara doesn't have to worry about me blinding myself.

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.