Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Leave the White Hoods at Home, Golfers

It didn't get a lot of attention last week (because CNN remains in 24/7 coverage of the missing Malaysian Airlines jet, FOX News is demanding answers from Hillary Clinton for the deaths in Benghazi, and MSNBC continues to move the goal posts for President Obama to keep spiking the ball on the "success" of the Affordable Care Act), but baseball hall of famer Hank Aaron made waves with some comments comparing Republicans who oppose the President to members of the Ku Klux Klan.


“Sure, this country has a black president, but when you look at a black president, President Obama is left with his foot stuck in the mud from all of the Republicans with the way he’s treated,” Aaron told USA Today Sports.
Aaron continued: “The bigger difference is that back then they had hoods. Now they have neckties and starched shirts.”

I'm guessing that Hammerin' Hank thinks those same Republicans were sexist when they opposed government control of health care originally proposed by then-First Lady Hillary Clinton in the 1990's.  He must also consider Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale as "racist" as well--since they spent their careers trying to strike him out--instead of just letting him hit the ball out of the park every at bat.

So imagine my surprise when the folks at US Venture announced yesterday that Hank Aaron will be the guest of honor at this year's Golf Open.  When he comes here to the Fox Valley, Hank will be asking hundreds, if not thousands of Republicans who are opposed to the political policies of President Obama to open their wallets and give more money to a number of local community foundations.  That money will go to programs that provide basic needs to people in the area--many of whom are racial minorities.  And by purchasing a foursome in the tournament, those Republicans will be giving more to charity in one day than Vice President Joe Biden did all of last year.

I doubt those small business owners, corporate executives and other fiscal conservatives will be boycotting the US Venture Open in August because of Mr Aaron's comments.  And I am certainly not suggesting that anyone not give to the event--because of all the good it does.  I would suggest that there still be standing ovations for Hank based on his accomplishments in the face of real racism (and without taking steroids)--and forgiveness for the bitterness that apparently still lingers.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Well, This Will Be Awkward

It will be interesting to see how seriously the major media outlets in Wisconsin treat State Representative Brett Hulsey's candidacy for Governor.  Yesterday's announcement that he is going to challenge Mary Burke for the Democratic nomination came out of nowhere--which is pretty much par for the course when dealing with Hulsey.

To call Hulsey's behavior "erratic" is to be kind.  This is a man who once took it upon himself to throw then-Mayor Paul Soglin's grandson in a Madison lake because he was splashing some girls at the beach.  This is a guy who once told the Dane County Board that he lived in fear of the Sheriff's Deputies union rigging his car with a bomb set to go off when he started the vehicle.  This is a politician who once commandeered the podium in front of all the cameras at a press conference for Governor Scott Walker to condemn Act Ten.  This is a man who once threatened to bring his muzzleloader rifle to the floor of the Assembly and shoot it at then-Majority Leader Bill Kramer's head (I bet Republican party leaders now wish he had actually done that).  And he is the guy who brought a boxcutter to the Capitol so that he "teach" his twenty-something female aid the art of self-defense.

Hulsey is also a conspiracy theorist.  He accused Mayor Soglin of "political bullying" by charging him with disorderly conduct in what he calls the "beach kerfuffle".  He thought the deputies were trying to kill him because of a contract dispute with the county.  And he accuses Governor Walker of trying to "destroy his political career" by releasing the police report detailing the boxcutter incident and how it drove his aide to quit her job (even though the report was released following a Freedom of Information Act filing).

But Hulsey isn't your run of the mill political crackpot that can be ignored--like the two other Democrats already challenging Mary Burke, can you name them?  He actually holds elected office.  The good people of Madison have elected him to the Assembly twice--after putting him on the Dane County Board for 7-terms.  Further complicating things, Hulsey self-admits to having psychological problems.  He claims to suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder due to physical and emotional abuse by his father while he was a child--and that is why he acts the way he acts.

It will be interesting to see if the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association holds a debate featuring Burke and Hulsey before the primary--as they have in the past when there are two "viable" candidates in the race.  Will the media outlets and wispolitics.com assign reporters to follow Hulsey around and blog about his every campaign speech and appearance.  And how will the inevitable bizarre statements and actions be treated in those stories?  Will they be prefaced by "Representative Brett Hulsey--who suffers from PTSD--today promised to throw Governor Scott Walker in prison for life for treason if elected to fill that same position"?  And does Mary Burke actually answer the accusations that she is not "liberal enough" to be the Democratic nominee?

Brett Hulsey's entry into the race for Governor may not make it more competitive or even more interesting.  But it will definitely be more awkward.


Monday, April 21, 2014

A Very Tough Sell

I wish the new owners of the Milwaukee Bucks the best of luck--because they are going to need it.

First off, they have bought into a franchise that has become directionless and talentless.  They don't have anyone close to All-Star caliber on the roster, their General Manager has been horrible in the draft and their Head Coach appears to have no answers for all but a few of the other teams in the league.  But talent deficiencies and management issues can be fixed through the draft and a changing of the guard in the front office.  And maybe the new owners will be more willing to spend money on that kind of talent than The Senator was,

But the biggest problem the new owners face is building support for construction (largely with taxpayer dollars) of a new Milwaukee arena.  Despite being only 25-years old, the BMO Harris Bradley Center is considered to be inadequate for the "modern" NBA.  New Commisioner Nate Silver toured the facility last year and deemed that it lacked the "back of house space and amenities" that the NBA needs.  I think the Commish means that there isn't an attached nightclub, upscale restaurant, lounge, team store, and kids playland at the BC--because you wouldn't want to just watch basketball at the arena, would you?

A new arena would cost a minimum of a half-a-billion dollars.  Herb Kohl and the new owners have each promised $100-million toward construction--meaning the city will have to come up with the remaining 300-mill.  With zero job growth and economic development prospects under Mayor Tom Barrett, the city doesn't have that kind of money--so you know where they are going to turn: to the rest of Wisconsin to foot the bill.

I can't see Governor Scott Walker including a 300-million dollar line item into the next two year budget--nor can I see Republican majorities in the Assembly and the State Senate approving that either.  They sill remember Senator George Petak who was recalled from office for casting the deciding vote that instituted the 5-county sales tax used to build Miller Park.

Ah yes, the 5-county sales tax.  It was originally scheduled to expire in 2017--which would set up perfectly for a "temporary extension" to fund a new Milwaukee arena.  But the revenues haven't kept pace with projections in recent years--and it may have to run longer than expected.  There is also a school of thought that maybe it should also be used to build a reserve fund for future repairs and improvements to Miller Park--just like what is being done with Lambeau Field and the Brown County sales tax.

The sad reality is that much of Wisconsin couldn't care less about the Bucks and professional basketball in Milwaukee.  If the team is good, we might watch a game or two--but honestly, the product stinks.  Regular season NBA action is boring--which is why it needs to be infused with music during game action, scantily clad dancers every timeout, half-court shot contests, t-shirt guns radio-controlled mini-blimps, and Bango the Buck doing crazy dunk routines.  That means the inevitable threats to move the franchise--and Seattle is desperate for a team with an empty "acceptable" arena just waiting--won't be as effective as when Bud Selig claimed he may have to sell the Brewers to a group is St Petersburg, Florida.  Plus, Joe Smith from Neenah really isn't keen on having to go to downtown Milwaukee for a game.  Which raises the big question (and looming fight) about where to locate the new facility.  You may recall the battle royale between the Pettit family--who was giving the Bradley Center to the city for free and wanted it built adjacent to County Stadium--and Mayor Henry Maier, who insisted that it must be downtown right next to the MECCA.  Because Maier was the undisputed King of Milwaukee--he got his way.

If there was any attachment at all to the Bucks, the idea of a new facility for the team might be a "slam dunk".  But given the ambivalence toward both the team and the city from those of us "outstate"--it appears to be well on its way to an "air ball".


Friday, April 18, 2014

Premature Jocularity

Remember back in the 1980's when the NFL became the "No Fun League"?  Rules were adopted banning on-field celebrations like "The Sack Dance", "The Fun Bunch" and even the simple act of spiking the football.  I think it is time for a similar ban on "celebrating" an accomplishment for politicians.

The term "spiking the football" joined the political vernacular after President George W Bush's infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech on the aircraft carrier during the Iraq War.  As it turned out, we had not scored the game-winning touchdown--but rather we had just pushed the ball out of our own end zone to the one-yard line.

Governor Scott Walker has been a good "ball spiker" as well--celebrating a projected budget surplus by immediately spending nearly all of that with a quick package of tax cuts.  As I've mentioned before in this space, I prefer to have my money in my pocket before I think about how to spend it.  Plus, another downturn in the sputtering national economic recovery--and you are right back in the mess you worked so hard to fix.

And then you have President Obama, who is becoming the King of End Zone Celebrations with the Affordable Care Act.  You had the Rose Garden speech earlier this month touting the 7-million registrations at HealthCare.gov.  But what we still don't know is how many of the registrants have actually enrolled in a health insurance plan?  And how many are going to keep up on the monthly premiums?  And will the increased claims allow insurers to keep premiums at the "affordable" level that was promised?  This isn't a touchdown--but just like Bush 41 found out--we are just getting out of our own end zone.  Then that celebration was topped by another "We did it!" press conference yesterday celebrating the ball reaching the 2-yard line--with 8-million people having "registered".  Hand me the pom-poms when there is 100% coverage, falling premiums and lower out-of-pocket costs for everyone.

If history is any indication, Presidents will never get to celebrate their own "victories".  It was Truman who ended World War II--not Roosevelt.  George H W Bush marked the fall of the Berlin Wall--not Ronald Reagan.  And who knows what President will be able to talk about what a great ally Iraq is in fostering democracy in the Middle East and fighting the spread of militant Islam as well.

Perhaps our overly exuberant leaders should consider the restraint shown by Winston Churchill after the British defeated the Nazis in the battle of El Alamein in 1942--driving the Germans out of Egypt:

"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Every Time That I Plant a Seed.....

I want you to file away in your memory banks a study that came out this week from researchers at Northwestern University.  The study finds that even casual use of marijuana causes brain damage in young adults.  I want you to remember that as the point at which the seeds of a giant lawsuit were sown.

There won't be any claims filed tomorrow, or next week or even later this year.  That's because the focus of pot smokers right now is to expand the legality of their favorite drug.  That means advocacy groups will be denying the impact of the study or using their standby excuse that "alcohol is a lot worse for you than pot and it's legal."  Democratic lawmakers will insist that the "science is not settled yet" on the safety of marijuana use--and that drug laws only exist to put minorities in prison--while Republicans will use the study to call for stricter restrictions on the use of pot because it is "obviously turning our young people into mindless zombies totally incapable of getting or keeping a job."

Eventually, there will be more studies done--some supporting the Northwestern findings, some coming up with completely different results.  More states will legalize recreational and medicinal marijuana use, and maybe even the Federal government will drop its pot laws.  Companies will become comfortable with marijuana as a cash crop and a legitimate retail product and will put their production and marketing might behind it--turning weed into an industry worth billions and perhaps trillions annually.  And THAT is when the lawsuits will begin!  Because who are you going to sue now?  Braden, the college kid that scores you a baggie or two every couple of weeks from some guys that he knows down in Milwaukee?

Attorneys for long-time pot smokers (who by that point will be barely able to function) will file all kinds of claims--targeting those companies (we'll call them "Big Pot").  The arguments will point back to that April 2014 Northwestern study that found smoking weed kills your brain cells as "proof" Big Pot knew for decades that the product they were selling to an "unsuspecting" public was dangerous to their health.  Why weren't there warning labels?  Advocacy groups will demand "justice" for those who smoked away their mental capacity every Friday and Saturday night for years.  Democratic lawmakers will make speeches about how "Corporate greed led to a coverup of clear scientific and medical proof that marijuana use was harmful to your health"--while Republicans will defend the pot-makers against that liability, arguing that they were selling a "completely legal product to customers who were well aware of the risks".

Perhaps PBS Frontline should interview the three Northwestern researchers right now for their expose in 20 to 30 years about how they knew of the dangers of pot smoking--but that they were "silenced" and "publicly discredited" so that Americans could continue their enjoyment of the product.  They can call that episode Bong of Denial. 

So again, just commit this week and this study to memory--unless you enjoy a toke or two every once in awhile--in which case you can just continue in your blissful ignorance.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

We Don't Want Your Kind Around Here

If you'd like some insight into the chaos that unfettered liberalism can have on a society, check out what is going on in San Francisco right now.  Residents of that city have declared all-out war on tech companies who are trying to bring new jobs to the Bay Area.  At first you might think, "Wow, a city doesn't want new jobs in this economy, what are they stupid?"  Nope, just liberal.

You see, the problem with the jobs coming to San Francisco and surrounding suburbs is that they pay too much.  Now you're probably really confused.  "They don't want high paying jobs?  What is wrong with them?"  What's wrong with them is that they live in fear of "gentrification"--or an increased standard of living within the city. 

San Francisco is already a very expensive place to live--due in large part to high taxes, an artificially high minimum wage, and other regulations on commerce and business (nearly all of which were approved by voters in referenda).  That means to live there, people are dependent upon government programs like rent control--which is supposed to keep housing costs lower than they would be if free market forces were allowed to operate as they should.  The "problem" that has developed in the Bay Area is that companies like Yahoo and Facebook have brought in a bunch of young, well-paid professionals who are also looking for a place to live in such a "cool" city--and they are buying the houses that had previously been available as rent control units for use now as single-family homes--meaning the people who have been getting by "on the cheap" need to find a new place to live.

The easy solution would be to build more houses right?  Well, that isn't so easy in the Liberal Utopia.  Ordinances are in place to limit urban sprawl and decades of efforts to make driving a car as difficult as possible leave city dwellers no choice but to use the limited options available through public transit (which has led to the buying up of former low-rent units close to train stations in outlying areas as well.  Plans to build the types of apartment and condo developments (with more rent-control units as well) within the city are inevitably derailed--as neighborhood associations hold incredible power to limit what can be built in order to "protect the unique character of their area".

Yahoo is particularly hated by the anti-tech crowd.  They are trying to lessen the impact of its employees on the city by offering to build apartments on their campus out of town.  But that effort was derailed when it was found that burrowing owls live near the area and the new development would disrupt their habitat.  Yahoo sought to limit the impact on public transit by setting up their OWN BUS SYSTEM to drive around town and pick up their employees.  But those buses are being stopped in the street by protesters--who even vomit on the vehicles--and the city now wants to charge Yahoo a "per stop fee" for curbside pickup.

So the message is clear to those who want to live stable, well-paid lives in San Francisco: We don't want your type around here.  Maybe those big tech companies (run--ironically enough--by well-known liberals themselves) will eventually get the message and consider moving all of those family-supporting jobs to "less progressive" places like Wisconsin.  We'd be more than happy to take them.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Not Much To See (or Hear) Here

During my brief foray into state politics I was subjected to being videotaped just a handful of times.  Once was while walking into a rally for then-Senate candidate Ron Johnson here in Oshkosh where not one--but two people were recording everyone who walked into the building.  My reporter instincts got the better of me and I asked one of the young men what he was doing.  "I'm on public property sir, I am allowed to film this" was the only response he would give me to my three or four questions--so obviously he had been well-trained not to crack while behind enemy lines.

Now, James O'Keefe--who masterminded the secret videotaping of State Senator Mike Ellis earlier this year with members of his group Project Veritas--is promising a lot more of these overt and covert operations.  That got me to thinking "what if I had somehow won that race a few years back--and they were doing that to me?"  And I had to chuckle at what they would probably "uncover".  I imagine their "logbook" would look something like this:

Day One: Followed Mr. Krause to the golf course where he hit balls on the range for about an hour and a half and practiced putting for another half hour.  His driving accuracy and short game are top-notch--but he really needs to work on his irons.  I attempted to engage him in a conversation about school vouchers while pretending to be a fellow golfer but he shot me a dirty look and asked if I thought Tiger Woods discussed politics on the practice range.  I thought we might have an opening when Mr Krause ordered an "Arnold Palmer" in the clubhouse--but it turns out that only has iced tea and lemonade in it--and no alcohol.

Day Two: Followed Mr Krause to Festival Foods where he was doing his grocery shopping.  I noticed that he purchased a lot of fresh fruits and dairy products--but not many green vegetables.  He also seemed to buy a lot of red meat.  Attempted to engage him in a conversation about the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage while pretending to be another shopper but he said he had to hurry home to get dinner made on the grill before his wife got home from work.

Day Three: Followed Mr Krause to the YMCA where he worked out for about 90-minutes.  He appears to have good upper body flexability but could really improve the strength in his shoulders and his hamstrings if he's looking to add more distance to his drives.  Attempted to ask him questions about campaign finance reform while pretending to be another runner on the track--but I could not keep up with him.

Day Four: Followed Mr Krause to the gym again--where this time he played basketball with a group of other middle-aged men.  He can't go left anymore with the dribble--but he continues to show great range from the outside.  Tried several times to guard him and get him to talk about his feelings on party leadership--but he kept running me into screens.  Eventually, I became too exhausted after the third game in a row and had to lay down for a little bit.  I did hear him complain to a fellow player about Traevon Jackson not getting the ball to Ben Brust, Frank Kaminsky or Sam Dekker for game winning shots--so perhaps we can use that to paint Mr Krause as a racist.

Maybe our current and future leaders should consider being this "boring" as well--and the whole "secret video" craze will fade away on its own.