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Winning isn’t everything, but it sure is fun PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 30 November 2011 17:37

For those who still don’t know where in the wild and woolly Midwest Wisconsin is located, here’s a clue: It’s in the midst of sports euphoria

When you consider big-time sports in America, it’s best not to be too rational. It’s not a subject that lends itself to common sense.

How do you make sense of the fact that the biggest sports stadiums in the country are owned by public, taxpayer-supported institutions founded to pursue higher learning?

Every man, woman and child who lives in Ozaukee County could fit in the University of Michigan’s stadium and there would still be 25,000 empty seats.

Beaver Stadium, the second largest in the U.S., where the Penn State football team plays, is slightly smaller than Michigan’s 110,000-capacity arena, but it would still hold
almost 10 times the population of Port Washington.

These facilities are for games played by students at the universities, right? Technically, yes. But then consider Russell Wilson, the stellar quarterback who plays for the
University of

Wisconsin in Camp Randall stadium (80,000 capacity).

A student in name only who perhaps attends a graduate class or two, he came to Madison as a graduate of North Carolina State University, after having played not only for
that school’s football team, but as a professional baseball player in the Colorado Rockies organization. The National Collegiate Athletic Association has blessed this
college version of free agency as perfectly acceptable.

The NCAA definitely did not bless the pay-for-play shenanigans at Ohio State that cost the head coach his job earlier this year. The new coach hired Monday to take over
the scandal-plagued program will be paid $4 million for his first year.

Don’t try to apply common standards of rationality to professional sports either. Even a public inured to seven or eight-figure salaries for run-of-the-mill jocks could be taken
aback by Prince Fielder’s coming foray into free agency. Here’s a first baseman, currently of the Milwaukee Brewers, who became a star playing for a team that this year
contended for a World Series berth, whose fans adore him, whose management wants to pay him an astonishing amount of money to stay in Milwaukee, but who will likely
be moving on because the $20 million a year the Brewers offered him is not enough.


Or how about some sports irrationality on a tiny scale? Try to make sense of the fact that people who buy something in, say, the Village of Belgium, which receives
approximately zero economic benefit from the Milwaukee Brewers, have to pay a sales tax to help pay for the baseball team’s stadium, which is owned by a private
for-profit company.

It’s better to be emotional, rather than rational, about sports. That way all of its excesses seem like a small price to pay for terrific entertainment without which life would
surely be duller. Especially in Wisconsin.

Let’s just say it: Wisconsin is America’s capital of sports excellence.

It’s not just winning games. It’s winning with class and style, often David vs. Goliath style.

The Brewers, playing in one of the smallest markets in baseball, nearly win the National League championship and have the league’s most valuable player in Ryan Braun.

The University of Wisconsin football team, part of a big-time college sports program, of course, but one that has not been shamed by the scandals that have sullied other
major universities (getting Russell Wilson was smart, not scandalous), gets to play this Saturday for the Big Ten championship.    

And the Packers. What to say about the Green Bay Packers, playing in the smallest city in the NFL, owned by the public, Super Bowl winners, the only undefeated team in
professional football?

Maybe the team said all that needs to be said with its Thanksgiving Day spanking of the Detroit Lions. While the Lions carried on like thugs and punks, the Packers acted
like smart, disciplined, fair-playing, not to mention superb, athletes.

What accounts for Wisconsin’s sports superiority? Midwest values? Work ethic? Cheese? We’re pretty sure it’s not the last, though the “cheesehead” perception seems to
endure among some TV announcers.

Wisconsin has always had a problem getting the respect it’s due. There’s a funny scene in the play “Lombardi” in which Marie Lombardi pulls out an atlas after her
husband tells her he’s been offered a job as the Packers’ coach. There probably still are sports fans who, like Mrs. Lombardi back then, are fuzzy about where in the world
Wisconsin is located.        

That’s OK. If they knew they might want to move here and get in on the fun of being Wisconsin sports fans. Sorry, our stadiums are full.

 
A sick joke on American kids PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Tuesday, 22 November 2011 16:39

People are laughing at Congress for defining pizza as a vegetable, but there’s nothing funny about blocking standards to make school lunches healthier

Did you hear the one about the people—all adults, mostly well educated—who claim pizza is a vegetable?

That was last week’s congressional joke of week. It exposed Congress to well deserved ridicule, but it certainly wasn’t funny.

It wasn’t funny because it wasn’t really a joke. It was a fact. Members of Congress put language in the spending bill expected to be approved this week that defines pizza as a vegetable.

This wasn’t done out of ignorance—though surely there was some of that in play—but in response to a powerful and well financed special interest group.

It wasn’t funny because it was done at the expense of the health of American school children, who have no powerful, well financed lobby to defend their interests.

In an effort to make school lunch programs subsidized by the federal government healthier, the Department of Agriculture sought congressional approval of new school lunch standards that would have increased the use of vegetables and whole grains and cut back on less nutritious, more fattening food.

Food companies that produce frozen pizzas for school lunch programs, potato growers and the salt industry pressured Congress to reject the changes. The pressure came with plenty of clout. The American Frozen Food Institute alone spent more than $5 million to fight the new rules.

Money talks. Congress not only rejected the standards for healthier school lunches; it endorsed a definition of pizza that allows it to qualify as one of the vegetable servings required in school lunches.

Money talks, and so do political agendas. Some of the Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee who trashed the school lunch rules did it in the name of limiting government regulation. Government shouldn’t tell children what to eat, they said—even when government is providing free food that is demonstrably unhealthy.

Nowhere in the congressional debate was a case made that the new rules would not have resulted in healthier food for school children. They were based on recommendations made two years ago by the Institute of Medicine that reflected both nutritional science and common sense. Who doesn’t know that diets that have more vegetables, less salt and fewer high-calorie carbohydrates are healthier? The alarming rise of obesity of children is a documented threat to American health. And it comes with other consequences.

A respected organization of more than 100 retired generals and admirals called Mission: Readiness urged Congress to reject what it called the “pizza loophole” because obesity is undermining American military readiness.

Obesity in young adults is so common that it is the leading cause of disqualification for military services, the generals and admirals said. One in four young adults are considered too overweight to join the military. They noted that children get up to 40% of their daily calories during the school day.

A CBS poll conducted earlier this month found that 83% of Americans disapprove of Congress, while 9% of the polling sample think Congress is doing a good job. Comedians and pundits have been having fun speculating on how and where the poll dug up the 9% who admit to respecting the performance of Congress.

Contempt for the legislative branch as it is currently constituted may have reached a point where Congress is not just a disappointment, but a disgrace.

We’re generalizing here. The conduct of all senators and representatives is not disgraceful. And some did their best to save the standards for healthier school food. But the majority rules, and the majority brought disgrace on the Congress by choosing to protect the profits of the processed food industry over the health of children.










 
Ask the tough generation about sacrifice PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 16 November 2011 18:40

Even as it honors the sacrifices of the World War II generation, America can’t bring itself to expect a bit more from some citizens in hard times

Tom Brokaw called them “the greatest generation,” but many of the Americans who lived as young adults through the World War II era take that aggrandized term with a grain of salt. They would probably be more comfortable with something like “the tough generation.” They earned that title by being asked to do more for their country than perhaps any generation before or since and responding in ways that to this day define sacrifice and courage.

One of the poster boys—the term fits even though the subject is now 85 years old—for that generation is Port Washington’s Joe Demler, who was featured earlier this month Ozaukee Press. Demler, who like so many of his fellow World War II veterans doesn’t take that “greatest” stuff very seriously, jokes about the number of times stories about him and pictures of him have appeared in the Press, starting in 1945 (so many we’ve lost count).

Demler became an iconic symbol of the sacrifice demanded of the World War II generation when Life magazine published a haunting photograph showing him as a starving 19-year-old prisoner of war on the day he was liberated from a Nazi prison camp in Germany. The occasion for the recent Press coverage was a meeting between Demler and a man from West Bend who, it turns out, was one of the GIs who liberated the camp.

The two met through the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight organization. The Honor Flights were started to give the aging World War II survivors the opportunity to see the memorials built in their honor in Washington, D.C., but they have become something more—a phenomenon that has seized the attention of Americans of all ages and given them cause to think of what the veterans’ generation has meant to this country. Evidence suggests such reminders are badly needed.


Though many volunteered, members of the tough generation didn’t have a choice about going to war. Millions were drafted. Those who didn’t join the armed services were expected to work harder and longer at home. They were also expected to make do with less, and give their government more in taxes. And they did.

Today little is asked in return for the privilege of American citizenship. There is no military draft, nor any form of mandatory or even strongly encouraged national service.

The country now finds itself in relatively difficult times, nothing like World War II, to be sure, but in the grip of a wounded economy that deprives the government of revenue necessary to ensure that some of the benefits that flourished in the prosperous years following the war will be available for future generations.

If the ethic of the World War II generation were properly valued, it would be obvious that some shared sacrifice is in order now, beyond the individual sacrifices of those who have lost their livelihoods, their homes or some of their savings. And yet the idea of increasing taxes, even if only for those most able to pay, is resisted so obdurately that it has effectively rendered the Congress dysfunctional.

In the World War II years, the tax rate on Americans earning over $200,000 was 94%. The average tax rate for all Americans was about 20%. Today income tax rates range from 10% to 35%, with the average well below the World War II years or almost any other American era.

And yet we are told that even small, targeted tax increases are too much to ask of Americans.        

It’s safe to say no one is going to look back some day and call this generation tough.

 
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