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  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.  

Monday, April 14, 2014

Politics as Bloodsport

Mike McCabe at the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign likes to decry the drawing of "safe" districts at both the Congressional and State levels as resulting in a lack of competitive races for those seats every year.  He believes that there are now "Republican" seats and "Democratic" seats that will likely never change hands in the next ten years.  But what that practice has also done is bring about ideological warfare--at least on the Republican side--here in 2014.

For the longest time, incumbents were immune from intra-party challenges for fear that it might weaken them for what could be a competitive general election.  It was far better to have an "R" in office--even if he or she wasn't 100% "ideologically pure"--than it was to risk losing that seat.  But now that districts are seen as more secure in terms of party preference, such fear of losing in November is vanishing--bringing with it far more in-fighting. 

And that absence of fear is what led us to Friday--as more than 80-years of political experience was swept out the door without a single vote being cast by the people served by Congressman Tom Petri and State Senator Mike Ellis.  In Petri's case, the Tea Party element of the GOP was promising a bruising primary campaign behind State Senator Glenn Grothman (even though he doesn't live in the 6th Congressional District)--and at 70+ years of age, it was a battle that the Congressman wasn't interested in fighting.  As for Senator Ellis, he has run afoul of the School Voucher/Anti-Common Core crowd--who sent in their hidden camera "reporters" to make him look as bad as possible.  We are "on watch" for State Senator Luther Olsen of Berlin to make a similar decision--as nearly all Republican groups in his district have voted to not support his re-election campaign this year.

In both cases the factions of the Republican Party have succeeded in setting up what they hope will be a "Real Conservative" vs a "Real Conservative" primary race--with the winner sure to triumph over a hapless Democrat in November.

But what if these groups have overplayed their hands?  What if the reason the 6th Congressional District and the 19th State Senate District have been Republican for so long is not because of the "R" on the ballot--but because of the candidates on the ballot?  Who is to say that Joe Sixpack who always had Congressman Petri and Senator Ellis to vote for isn't nearly as interested in voting for "that new guy"?  Is losing majority control of the State Senate and the House of Representatives worth the "ideological purity" that you have achieved within the party?

Based on the results we have seen on the national scale the last 10-years, the GOP is fast becoming the party of Pyrrhic victories--so I guess the immediate answer will be "yes".

Friday, April 11, 2014


While you are watching President Obama's announcement about the resignation and replacement of Kathleen Sebelius as the Secretary of Health and Human Services today, I want you to think back to the day President Bush gave FEMA Chief Michael Brown a vote of confidence following Hurricane Katrina back in 2005.  I'm hoping the President gives us a great one-liner like "Ole Kathy's done a heckuva job implementing the Affordable Care Act".  When you think about it, there are a number of similarities between the two situations.  It was a disaster that we saw coming, yet big government--in its slow, bumbling way--was still totally unprepared for what happened.  Of course, Scott Brown and FEMA had just a week to prepare for hurricane relief efforts while Kathleen Sebelius had FOUR YEARS to get a website operational.


Speaking of "the website", we will hear a lot about "7.1 million people signed up" and what a "huge success" that was (even though it took twice as long as it was supposed to).  But we still don't know how many of those 7.1 million are among the 6 million whose health insurance policies were canceled due to the ACA's "minimum coverage" requirements.  We also still don't know how many of the 7.1 million have actually paid their premiums (which is far more important that just signing up--since that actually puts the policy into effect).  And we still don't know what became of the 23-million other people who were "desperate" for health insurance coming into last year.  More than likely, a good percentage are in expanded Medicaid programs--where the states will soon be stuck with the bill for their coverages.  And let's not forget that all these people were doing is complying with Federal law.  You may as well "congratulate" Eric Holder because 360-million people didn't rob a bank the past six months.


Here's a bit of unsolicited advice for Republican state lawmakers:  STOP GOING TO BARS!!  The Senator Mike Ellis secret video released this week by Project Veritas was shot in a Madison bar.  How many the Senator had before the conversation about forming a political action committee--which he said was meant hypothetically (or was dropped because everyone realized it was illegal, we've heard a couple of versions now)--is not known.  This is actually the second time Ellis has been stung this way.  You may recall Blogging Blue captured Ellis denegrating the student body at Preble High School in a secret recording filmed--you guessed it--at a Madison bar.  That people with hidden cameras know where to find Mike saying things guaranteed to get him into hot water at any time suggests a pattern of behavior that needs to change.

Then you have Representative McFeely--I mean Bill Kramer--who is facing criminal charges for an alleged sexual assault of one of Senator Ron Johnson's aides in the parking lot of a Mequon bar.  This goes along with his sexual harassment of a GOP lobbyist at a fundraiser in Washington DC that likely involved more than a little drinking.  The Founding Fathers may have held many of their debates over the structure and purpose of our fledgling democracy in the taverns of their day--but that was before hidden video cameras, Youtube, Twitter and drunk driving laws.  It might be a good idea to work on mixing up your old-fashioneds and your whiskey sours at home from now on, guys.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Hello Friends

I was having a conversation this week about why the Masters has become my favorite sporting event to watch on television.  In going through the litany of items that make the Masters broadcasts so unique, I realized that it's not the spectacular setting (made even better by HDTV) or the drama on the back nine on Sunday that I like so much--it's that the Masters is the only broadcast that treats it's viewers like mature, intelligent adults.

The credit for that has to go to the membership of Augusta National Golf Club--which keeps very tight control on the broadcast content.  They wisely provide CBS and ESPN with the rights on a year-to-year basis.  That's means if they see or hear something on the air that they don't like--they can immediately begin to shop the rights around to NBC, ABC, or FOX--all of whom would knock over their own grandmothers to be the first in line to sign that new contract.

The club also limits how many commercials can be shown an hour--and they bring their own sponsors to the table.  IBM, Exxon/Mobil and AT&T will be the only commercials you will see during the four minutes of ads allowed per hour.  That means no ads with hamsters and French girls trying to sell "Framily" plans, there's no "Mayhem" blowing up cars and houses, and there are no ads featuring the father, husband or boyfriend being the butt of every joke.

The production of the broadcast is muted as well.  That means no fighting robots, no Killers song to take us to every break (just the iconic Dave Loggins piano piece "Augusta"), no Gus Johnson screaming at the top of his lungs about a routine shot, no Konica Minolta BizHub Swing Vision Camera breakdown of everyone's swing and no Fidelity Investments Putting Line superimposed over the perfect greens.  Players aren't interviewed about their front nine performance while the rest of the group waits to tee off on 10.  Jim Nantz and Verne Lundquist don't even have to sound excited about the new episode of "Two Broke Girls" or "Mike and Molly".  And the cast of the "Big Bang Theory" isn't shown sitting behind the 18th green--all on their cell phones and not even paying attention to what is going on in front of them.  The course is the star of this show--and it will be shown just the way it is.

I'm not saying that Masters coverage is perfect.  There is still a bit too much "reverence" paid to the tournament.  But it is the closest thing we have left to the origin of sports broadcasting: here is the game, here's who's playing and here's the score.  You don't really need a lot more than that.  But even if you aren't all that interested in who wins or loses.  It's at least nice to have the TV on for four or five hours and not have your intelligence insulted....constantly.