Thursday, March 26, 2015

21 Jump Street

It certainly caught a lot of people by surprise this week when we learned that the New London Police Department had placed an undercover officer among the student body at the city's high school to investigate reports of drug use and sales along with bullying.  Those of us in our 40's were reminded of the awful FOX TV show 21 Jump Street that featured Johnny Depp and other talentless young actors playing cops who also went undercover into schools to fight crime. 

But just imagine what it must have been like to be that undercover officer.  First off, to be 21-years old and still able to pass as a high schooler is kind of embarrassing in itself.  But to have to go back into that situation should have warranted battle pay.

First off, you have to the "new kid in school".  That means sitting alone at lunch, having to impress other kids with either the car you drive or the headphones you have for you Ipod or by proving that Katy Perry follows you on Twitter. 

Then you have to sit through Common Core Standard math and English classes all without blurting out "This won't help you at all when you get to college" and blowing your cover.  And do you actually put in the work necessary to complete assignments or pass tests?  I'm sure the entire staff was not informed of the undercover officer's presence in the school--since the more people who know, the more likely the operation is going to be exposed.

And then think about having to shop for clothing.  Tight pants and revealing tops if you are pretending to be a female student.  Or spending hours on making sure that your hair is gelled perfectly if you are a guy.  Was the officer provided with an expense account to make a $1000 "prom-posal" that included reservation of a helicopter that landed on the school lawn so he or she could step off with a single rose like some episode of The Batchelor--since "Hey, want to go to the prom with me?" is no longer consider a proper way to ask someone out?  And what do you do when a 15-year old girl who is desperate for your attention wants to send you "nudes" on Snapchat?

What really disturbs me is some of the comments you see from the "adults" under on-line stories about this operation.  They are "offended" that police would "spy on their children" like this.  Given that the officer was able to buy pot from two kids at the school, maybe it's the parents themselves that should be doing a little bit more "spying"--instead of a modern day Johnny Depp.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

One Question Left Unanswered

Amidst all of the criticism of police using deadly force against armed and unarmed suspects, I hope that the incident in Fond du Lac last night that left a Wisconsin State Patrol Trooper dead puts into context the dangers that law enforcement face every time they are called to an armed robbery, a domestic violence incident and even a routine traffic stop.  The possibility of an armed confrontation is ever present, and to expect officers, deputies and troopers to put that risk out of their minds is unfair and dangerous to all of us.

But one question does remain from the incident involving Milwaukee Police Officer Christopher Manney and Dontre Hamilton.  This week, the Milwaukee Police and Fire Commission upheld Chief Ed Flynn's firing of Manney for conducting an improper pat down of Hamilton after finding him sleeping a public park.  Manney was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing in the shooting however, because Hamilton attempted to grab his baton during the ensuing struggle and the officer feared for his safety.

So that begs the question: What is the proper response from a citizen when a law enforcement officer acts in an improper fashion?  Unlike the officers in the Michael Brown incident in Ferguson, Missouri and the Tony Robinson shooting in Madison, Manney was found to be acting without reasonable belief that a crime had been or was being committed. Brown was a suspect in a convenience store robbery.  Robinson had been jumping in front of cars and may have been involved in a fight in an apartment as the officer arrived on scene.  Dontre Hamilton was just lying on the sidewalk in a park--and the Police and Fire Commission decided that having bulges in his pockets did not warrant being frisked.

So what do the rest of us do if we are put in the same situation?  I don't spend much time sleeping on sidewalks, but based on the number of times I'm told I look "just like" someone somebody went to high school with or they used to work with I might look "just like" someone who does. Or what happens if someday I look "just like" the guy who just held up the gas station a few blocks away or the guy that was just involved in a fight outside a nearby bar and an officer wants to do a warrantless search of my person?  As those other incidents have shown, trying to grab the officer's gun or baton or punching him in the face are certainly NOT the answers.  But what is the solution that not only protects my civil rights--but also keeps an officer from feeling threatened?  Maybe that is a question Police Chiefs and Sheriffs can answer during press conferences--so that we can reduce the number of dangerous situations that require deadly force.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

On Golden Pond

I admit that I missed the episode of Home & Garden Television's Lakefront Bargain Hunt filmed here in Oshkosh when it premiered on Sunday night.  Seeing as how it was on opposite the Badgers Basketball game, it could have been hosted by Kate Upton and Crissy Tiegen in their bikinis and I still would not have flipped over.  But a co-worker here at the Radio Ranch--who has misplaced priorities--did tune in and filled me in on the episode.

He says that Oshkosh was portrayed as a quiet, peaceful lakeside town.  The houses the couple was shown--the husband being a big fisherman--weren't the fanciest on the lake but they were decent (remember the premise is to find a "bargain") and just required a little bit of work to be better--although the wife was made to appear hyper-critical of pretty much everything she saw.

What I find interesting is that the show chose to film here in Oshkosh in October.  I'm told that there were plenty of shots of colorful trees along the lake (and interestingly enough, they were apparently still leaves on the trees and no snow on the ground when they came back "two months later" to see what the couple had done with their new house--apparently they fudge on the "two months" thing).  But wouldn't it have been a lot more interesting if they had filmed the show along Lake Winnebago at some other times of the year?

Suppose they came around Mother's Day weekend in May when the HUGE lakefly hatch was underway.  Wouldn't it be fun to watch the realtor and the perspective buyers sprinting from their cars to the house--with their hands covering their mouths and pinching their noses to keep the bugs out?  The camera crews could focus in on the clouds of lakeflies that threaten to block out the sun.  The viewers could try to guess the color of the house underneath the thick layer of bugs coating the siding.  And when they come back to see what the couple had "done with the house" they could show them sweeping up the huge piles of dead lakeflies on the porch and in the driveway.

Or they could have filmed in early April after a big gizzard shad die off and when the turnover on the lake sends all of the dead fish to the surface and along the shoreline--where they pile up and rot in the sun.  Another good time would have been during a late July or early August heat wave when there is a blue-green algae bloom and people are told to keep themselves and their pets out of the lake to prevent toxic poisoning--and it smells like someone opened up a sewage pit in their backyard.  Another good time to film that episode would have been in late February or early March when the ice shoves are forming along the shore.  You don't think people living in Florida or California wouldn't enjoy watching giant piles of ice crushing the boathouse and the shed?  that's ratings gold!

So hopefully Lakefront Bargain Hunt can come back to Oshkosh during a more "interesting" time of the year--if for no other reason that to re-assure us "In-land" bargain hunters that we made the right decision.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Mandatory Exercising of Your Rights

President Obama set the internet atwitter late last week with an off-hand comment about making voting mandatory in the United States.  Liberals jumped on that immediately, praising the President for setting a clear path to "counter the influence of big money in elections" (like special interests on both ends of the political spectrum wouldn't spend even MORE money to influence even MORE voters).  It was also seen as a way to circumvent proof of identity and legal residency laws in a growing number of states (as if every person who doesn't have a legal ID or proof that they live in a particular ward and haven't voted in another part of town already is going to vote for Democrats).  Forgetting for a moment the Constitutional issues that the President ignores in pretty much everything he does, let's get down to what would really happen if voting was mandatory in the US.

First off, execution would require a complete overhaul of the manner in which we conduct elections.  If you live in a politically active area, you already know that lines can get long at the polls.  Now imagine if the 40% of people that don't vote are forced to be there in line as well.  That will lead those on the left to introduce a number of less-accountable ways to vote--such as mailing ballots to all voters (or make that addresses of people that may or may not still be there).  As any clerk will tell you, the polling books are filled with people that have moved without notice, died, or have done something that makes them no longer eligible to vote.  And try to imaging the expense of mailing out (and then likely having to cover the return postage because think of all those Democratic voters that can neither afford nor have access to a stamp).

Secondly, you are making people choose between candidates they don't actually support.  While most non-voting is simple laziness and ignorance, there is a certain percentage of the population that that doesn't like any of the candidates on the ballot.  What is their relief from this voting requirement then?  Will we add my proposed option "None Of The Above" to all races on all ballots?  And if "None" wins, forcing all of the parties to come up with new candidates until someone does win a majority?  Plus, is a person mandatorily voting required to choose a candidate in all races on the ballot?  I know I won't be voting for anyone in the Oshkosh Mayor's, City Council or School Board races next month--but I will in the Supreme Court race and in the Constitutional referendum.  Is that then a "legal ballot"--and who will be making sure that all ballots are "properly filled in"?

And finally, we aren't very good at enforcing a lot of "mandatory" things already.  11% of American men have never registered with Selective Service--even though that is mandatory when you turn 18.  17% of those who should be filing federal tax returns are not--even though that is mandatory.  There are somewhere between 12 and 20-Million people in the US who did not seek mandatory immigration status.  And there are still 41-Million Americans remain without health insurance--even though the Affordable Care Act requires them to have it. 

And the ACA serves as a perfect example of the expense and effort that would be put into making sure "all" Americans comply with mandatory voting.  I'm sure "Organizing for America" would be chomping at the bit to get the contracts to go into all neighborhoods and get people ballots, help them fill out the ballot ("All of the Democrats are in this column ma'am--that's all you need to fill out") and if someone isn't home or can't be contacted or has been dead for years and no one ever followed up on that, just file fake ballots to meet their assigned quotas.  And what would be the punishment for failing to vote?  Prison?  ("What are you in for?" "Didn't vote" "Wow, that's hardcore, man") Fines that no one will ever be able to collect?  Being banned from complaining about the idiots that run this country?

Oh, well.  I guess it's a small price to pay for "freedom".

Friday, March 20, 2015

Why We Don't "Pay" the Kids

I have a question for you today: If Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig and Josh Gasser played on a Second Division professional team called the Madison Mudpuppies that was coached by General Manager Bo Ryan would you watch their games?  Would you be excited to watch them perhaps face the Lexington, Kentucky Lynx--the top farm club of the Philadelphia 76ers with their ten guys who will all likely be called up to the big club next year--in the semi-finals of the National Minor League Championship Playoffs?  I bet you wouldn't.  I bet you would have no interest in watching any of the 63 knockout games that would played to determine the best non-NBA professional team in the country if such a tournament existed--even if they had cool brackets that allowed you to make picks beforehand and teams that maybe didn't do so well in their own league beat higher-rated teams from other leagues and they gave it a catchy name like March Mayhem.

I bring this up because the issue of paying NCAA basketball players is going around again following a hilarious skit by John Oliver last weekend on his HBO show Last Week Tonight where he takes the NCAA and the Men's Basketball Tournament to task for producing billions of dollars of revenue that do not result in any direct cash payments (none that are legal anyway) to the players themselves:

When you consider the billions that NCAA basketball generates (and even more coming in from football), don't you think some enterprising private sector entrepreneurs would have figured out a way to get at least a share of that?  Where are the 15 or 20 money men who get together and say "Let's get these very same guys to come play for us, where they can make some money, not have to pretend to go to classes and never have to worry about being suspended because their coach wanted to buy them lunch"?

Well I can tell you why that doesn't--and likely will never--happen: When it comes to intercollegiate sports, the name on the FRONT of the jersey is the only one that matters to fans.  And given the choice of watching--and paying to watch--non-NBA and non-NFL teams made up of paid athletes signed by a team or teams made up of unpaid enrollees at a school--the unpaid enrollees are going to win every time.  And if you don't think that is true, then name for me three players on our "hometown" minor league baseball team the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.  Or three players the Milwaukee Bucks have under development contracts in the D-League.  Most of those guys could still be playing collegiate ball--but they wanted to get paid cash for their talents--and so they toil away in relative anonymity.--where any of the NCAA athletes who feel that the current system is "unfair" to them can also choose to work anytime they want.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Here's Your Half Caf Mocha Soy Latte, Racist

It's too bad that I can't stand coffee and that my budget would never allow me to buy the incredibly overpriced products at Starbucks because I would really love to have a "conversation" about race with one of the servers.  Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is encouraging his employees to engage customers on race relations by writing "Race Together" on their cups.  I would love to hear their suggestions for improving the plight of poor, Black Americans in ways that don't involve expanding government programs and dependence.  And I'd like to know how they think not sending drug dealers or those who possess weapons illegally to prison just to decrease racial disparities in the criminal justice system will make minority neighborhoods safer and better places to live.  Plus, I can't think of a better expert to help me "understand" the state of race relations in the US than a 20-year old from Omro who works in a glorified break room.

And what happens if the server whom the customer chooses to "engage" in this conversation doesn't hold the same racial views as Mr Schultz?  I seem to recall instances where Starbucks customers found not-so-flattering descriptions on their coffee cups or on their receipts.  Are prospective employees going to have to take tests to determine their "tolerance levels"?  Will there be training sessions on "sensitivity" right after being shown how to wash out the milk steamer?

Just imagine if this "let me tell you what you should think" policy expanded to other forms of retail.  Every customer at Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A would be asked "Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?"  I'm guessing the professional protesters would be back out in front of those locations hoping to "save" customers from such "insensitive" questioning.  And I'm sure Hooters customers would really like to discuss the role of women in society and business while trying hard not to stare down the front of their waitress' tank top.

Rather than talking around the problem, might I suggest Howard Schultz actually take action to improve race relations in this country.  Why doesn't he provide low-income people of color with "transportation subsidies" as part of their compensation packages so that they can pay their own way to work in his coffee shops in well-to-do suburbs--instead of whining about a lack of taxpayer-funded transit systems in those areas?  Why doesn't he provide 50-cents from every grossly overpriced cup of coffee to the nearest low-income school districts instead of bemoaning a lack of taxpayer funding for those institutions?  And why doesn't he have his employees write "Don't do drugs" "Don't join gangs" "Don't have children out of wedlock" and "Don't buy this unless you are also saving for your child's college education" on their cups instead of griping that taxpayers don't provide enough money to the myriad of government programs that have to deal with the aftermath of those actions?

Consider it putting your money where your $6 small cup of coffee is.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What, Me Worrry?

If you are to believe all of the hubbub on sports talk radio and the 24-hour news channels yesterday, the retirement of former Badger and 49ers linebacker Chris Borland has NFL owners quaking in their shoes worried about the future of their sport.  All of the talking heads believe Borland's decision to stop playing football out of concern for suffering brain damage is a "game changer" that "doesn't bode well for the future of the league".

Well I'll tell you that the NFL has ZERO worries about Chris Borland stepping away from the game.  You know why?  Because about a month from now, all of those league and team officials will be in Chicago taking their pick from the hundreds of guys who would be more than happy to replace Chris Borland on the field at the NFL Draft.  Chris Borland has a degree from a world-class university and can return to his hometown of Kettering, Ohio to sell insurance or investments or real estate and have a pretty comfortable life without football.  But how many African-Americans from the streets of Miami or Houston or Los Angeles do think can just walk away from the possibility of millions in the NFL and have that same kind of life?  If THOSE guys start saying "it ain't worth it, man", then the NFL might be a little bit worried.

And when universities decide that they aren't going to continue to operate as free "minor league farm teams" for the NFL--churning out brain-damaged potential draft picks who have made a mockery of higher education ideals (I'm talking to you everyone in the SEC and THE Ohio State University) then the NFL might get worried.  Of course, what University President is going to give back all of that cash coming in from the Big Ten Network, or the SEC Network or the Pac-12 Network or the College Football Playoff?

And when high schools in Texas stop winning referenda allowing them to build multi-MILLION dollar football stadiums and training facilities--the NFL might get a little bit worried.  Or when the coaches on Friday Night Tykes all decide to go with flag football rules--or worse yet, soccer--for their kids instead of full-contact practices--then the NFL might start getting worried.

And when people stop lining up for weeks in order to be the first to buy the latest edition of the Madden NFL video game--the NFL might get a little bit worried.  Or when there aren't 15 fantasy football guides on the newsstand every summer, and there aren't 15-million fantasy football websites and when ESPN no longer dedicates entire hours of programming to picking your fantasy football team and when studies show that people aren't wasting 10-hours a week at work talking about or doing on-line research for their fantasy football teams--the NFL might start getting worried.

But here is when the NFL will get worried: When NFL football isn't the top-rated program on TV every week of the season.  When games, pre-game shows and post-game shows don't make up six of the top ten rated programs all season long.  When the Super Bowl doesn't generate record ratings every year.  When cable providers no longer pay a premium to carry NFL Network (out of fear of an avalanche of customer feedback demanding to see Thursday night games, and the combine) or all of the ESPN networks with their fanatical devotion to everything NFL all year 'round.  When four networks are no longer willing to give the league BILLIONS of dollars every year to televise the games.  When Visa no longer pays to be the "official card of the NFL" and Coca-Cola no longer wants to be the "official refreshment" and Subaru doesn't want to be the "official Crossover vehicle" THEN--and ONLY then--will the NFL start to "worry" about players deciding not to play out of concern for long-term brain damage.