Ok…yea…I know.  Where have you been?  Well, there has been very little that I feel strongly enough to write about.  Even this is not holding my interest enough to do a player by player deep analysis.  Still, it’s a start.  Before we begin, I need to get things off to the proper start…

****FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY! ANY WAGERS PLACED BASED SOLELY ON THIS ARTICLE IS FOOLISH IN THE EXTREME.  ANY SUCCESSFUL WAGERS PLACED BASED ON THESE PREDICTIONS ARE MERELY COINCIDENTAL AND ARE SUBJECT TO A 75% FEE, PAYABLE TO ME.****

There…now that that’s out of the way…here are my predictions and analysis for the gold medal in men’s hockey at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

CANADA   3-1

Unless and until they prove otherwise, the Canadians (no…not the Montreal ones) are the best in the world (and I’m not just saying that because Pickles and Patty are on the team).  The only questions are which players are going to ride the pine during the tourney.  Not to start any arguments, but the people that say that the Canadian ‘B’ team (the players not named but could have been) could still win a medal might just have a point.

USA  4-1

The US team is just as loaded as the Canadians, but a slightly weaker defencive core and questions about Jimmy Howard (having him out would be a plus for the US team, but that’s just my evil empire bias) slip the US team behind the Canadians.  Either way, a medal podium without both of these teams would be a major upset.

SWEDEN 5-1

Once again, the Swedes have a very strong team.  The Sedin Sist…I mean Twins, Nick Backstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Gabriel Landeskog…there’s no lack of offence for them.  Defencively, they are just as strong even with Johnny Oduya (OH…DO YA?!?!).  They even have a strong goaltender presence.  The only thing that might trip them up is their group (as I will get to later).

RUSSIA  6-1

My biggest concerns with the Russian team is, do they go with the proven international vet, Alexander Yeryomenko in net, or go younger and less exposed to international play with Sergei Bobrovski who just happened to win the 2012-13 Vezina?  It’s difficult to get a true read on the Russian team based on the number of KHL players that are on the Russian roster.  Still, the Russians traditionally have a strong showing and they still have a better than average chance on the gold.  On an unrelated note, I would love to be able to sit in the stands during a Russian practice and yell “ALEX!” as loud as I can.  With five Alexander’s and two Alexi’s on the team, getting that many heads to turn would amuse me to no end!

FINLAND   8-1

By far the deepest team in net in the Olympics (a combined .918 SV% and 2.39 GAA among Niemi, Lehtonen, and Rask as of 1-21).  The thing that could keep them off the podium is a perceived lack of offence.  Rip Van Selanne’s goal scoring has been dropping off significantly over the past few seasons and no Finnish forward has yet cracked the 20 goal mark in their respective pro league (Valtteri Filppula’s 18 for the Lightning leads the way).  Sure, any of the three Finnish goalies have the ability to win a 2-1 game every night, but they shouldn’t have to. Yea, I’m sure the coaches have a “system” for them to play in, but the best system won’t work if you can’t put the biscuit in the basket.

SLOVAKIA   10-1

Sure, Jaroslav Halak in net and Zdeno Chara on the blueline is a great base to build on and having a good (albeit cheating Blackhawk) in Marian Hossa as a scorer definitely gives the Slovaks a fighting chance, they are done in by not having as deep a team as others higher on this list and being in a group with the US and Russia.  Sure, Halak can steal any given game (cheating Blue that he is) but can he steal them all?  If all the planets align the Slovaks could sneak onto the podium, but they, along with the Czechs, are a long shot pinned against the rail when it comes to the gold.

CZECH REPUBLIC  12-1

Don’t get me wrong, the Czechs have a decent team.  However, they are just not at the level of the top 5.  In fact, the Czechs only NHL goalie is likely to be the #3 on the roster.  The best talent that the Czechs have is getting a little long in the tooth.  I’m not really sure where their #3 world ranking is coming from.  Sure, they have a solid defencive roster, but not outstanding like the others.

SWITZERLAND  30-1

The Swiss.  This team has the single biggest chance of making a mess of the group and possibly the medal round.  It’s all going to come down to if Jonas Hiller is a very good goalie on a very good team or a good goalie on a excellent team.  If the former, he may be able to steal enough games in the round robin to possibly upset the Swedes for the group winner.

NORWAY  40-1

As go their goalies, so go the Norwegians.  Two very young (20 and 21) and one mentally questionable goaltenders holds the key for them.  Who knows…maybe youthful exuberance could lead to a magic run for the Norwegians.  More likely is a 10-0 beatdown by the Canadians on Feb. 13th.

SLOVENIA  40-1

Sure, playing for your country on the biggest stage in sports is an honor many of us will never get the opportunity to have, but I am sure that Anze Kopitar would rather stay with his Kings teammates.  Would give the Slovenes a better chance in a group with Slovakia, Russia, and the US.

AUSTRIA  45-1

As much as Kopitar wants to stay in LA, Thomas Vanek is looking at the 2 week vacation in Russia as a much needed break from the island.  The thing I am most looking forward to with the Austrian team is the announcers taking a stab at some of the names (Gerhard UnterluggauerThomas Hundertpfund, and Daniel Oberkofler are my personal favorites).

LATVIA  45-1

The biggest surprise to me was the fact that long time Shark Sandis Ozolins is still playing and Arturs Irbe isn’t.  Yea…Irbe is 46, but I’m sure he’s still got enough game to be the backup.  the Alex Trebek stat of the Olympics is, with the exception of Arturs Kulda, every member of the Latvian team has a surname that ends with an ‘S’.

Well….there it is.  Yea, it’s no TSN in depth analysis, but it is what I see.  Other than following current and former San Jose Sharks, one of my pleasures will be following current Milwaukee Admiral Simon Moser as he plays for Switzereland.

Since sometime during the afternoon hours of October 10th, the Milwaukee County Transit System has been providing what they call a “community service” to all their riders and potential riders.  What is that service you ask?  Free rides for the poor?  No…  Additional concessions to disabled riders?  No…  What could that be?  Well…it is this:

Img0001_10-11-2013Now, my first thought was that perhaps they were getting some “free” federal dollars to promote ObamaCare.  So I asked them through their Twitter account (@RideMCTS).  Here is what I asked and the response:

Twitter - InteractionsOk…pardon my bad grammar ( I should know better…oh well), but it seems that this was their own idea.  I guess everyone is entitled to reap the benefits of that crappily run site.

I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised.  Milwaukee county is the second most liberal county in the state.  But what I keep coming back to is…Why?  Is there ANYONE in the county/city that DOESN’T know that ObamaCare is in force?  How many billions have been spent on ad campaigns, political campaigns, and media blitzes?  Is there really someone out there who is waiting at a bus stop and sees this and says, “DAMN!  Really?  I can get health care just by calling this phone number?  WOW!”  Does MCTS really have to be another mouthpiece for the Obama Administration?  They can’t control third party app issues with their route schedules (see earlier conversations on their Twitter account), bus drivers who seem to think the rules of the road do not apply to them (I could go on for DAYS with the things I have seen), or bus drivers who seem to think that they are just there to talk to other drivers, but by golly, we need to get the word out on ObamaCare.  It’s not even like they are trying to cover their own asses by trying to justify the millions spent on relatively unused bike racks with this from last year:

Img0001_10-05-2012I mean, CYA is a well know strategy to every one of us.  The ObamaCare thing though…I don’t know.  Maybe it’s the union bus drivers wanting to provide a unified front.  Who knows?

I can hear you already.  Yes, there are other, way bigger things to worry about.  This will be forgotten shortly after they stop doing it.  I know, but the thing is…if we don’t stop the little stupid things, what right do we have to try to stop the big, important, stupid things?

Yes, businesses are free to advertise in whatever ways they wish.  It is also my right to point it out when those ads are bad, misleading, or even harmful.  That is the real point of this rant.  If you only see one side of an argument, you might not know until it is too late that you made an poor, uninformed decision.  I think ObamaCare is a massively bad idea.  It’s expensive.  It is poorly managed.  You also have no choice…it’s the law.  A law that needs to be changed.

Bringing back the blog for, possibly, a one time event.  I have mentioned Operation Write Home before, but this time, I want to participate in the sketch challenges.  Well…Instead of creating an entire new blog, I thought I would pirate (arrr!) my own blog for the purpose.  So, below is my creation for the OWH sketch challenge #185.  Enjoy!

 

IMG_2698[1]

As we as a country charge over the fiscal cliff in our supercharged Obamamobile, it seems like there is an awful lot of do as I say, not as I do among the ‘unbiased’ media outlets.  Turn on any of the letter stations (NBC, ABC, CBS, MSNBC, CNN) and you will hear nothing but demonizing of the wealthy and conservatives (to the mind of a liberal, these are one and the same), for not doing their part to allow the spendaholic Obama administration to keep spending.  It boggles my mind that the average liberal has no idea how to manage money.  Have these people never had to manage a budget?  It’s not hard.  You have your income (taxes and fees) and you have your expenses (things you spend your income on).  Now, if the first is higher than the second, you have extra money for ‘fun’ stuff (here in Milwaukee, that would include Mayor Barrett’s hipster trolley).  If the second is higher, you need to find a way to cut expenses or increase income.  For conservatives, cutting ‘fat’ out of the federal budget is the way to go.  When times are better (more workers providing more tax revenue), you can bring back some of that ‘luxury’ spending.  For liberals, the key is increasing income at all costs.

The best way for a liberal to get revenue is soaking the ‘rich’.  In the mind of a liberal, a rich person is by definition evil and his ill-gotten gains from the sweat and toil of the little people needs to be confiscated by the government and used for a better purpose than they do with it.  Well, the facade of the liberal talkers tends to look a bit crumbly when you look a bit closer.  Many of the most well known liberal TV personalities are not only rich, they would be considered filthy rich by anybody’s standards (Hell, Chris Matthews’ salary alone is $5 million per year).  So, in an effort to see if these people are willing to practice what they preach, I sent the following letter to Chris Matthews of MSNBC, Matt Lauer of NBC, Wolf Blitzer of CNN, George Stephanopoulos of ABC, and Bob Schieffer of CBS to see if they were willing to ‘do their part’ and ‘pay their fair share':

With all the talk from the liberal left about how the rich are not paying their ‘fair share’, I was wondering if you would be willing to do your part? While I do not know your tax bill, I’m sure that, according to the liberal talking points, you are not paying your fair share. With that in mind, I propose this. Below, I have compiled what I believe is a fair budget. Any money you have left over per month should be donated to the federal government to help out those less fortunate than yourself. To make it easy, here is the link to make that donation: http://www.fms.treas.gov/faq/moretopics_gifts.html

Food: $300 per person in the household per month (more than double the famous ‘food stamp challenge’.)
Rent: $1,100 per month
Utilities: $275 per month (I feel that this is a fair average for throughout the year for heat, water, and electric)
Phone: $50 per month
Internet: $25 per month (this is only on here as a concession to your job)
Transportation: $125 per month

That is it. That is, admittedly, a bigger budget than most middle-class families can afford. Do you think you could do it for the greater good? I do not expect any reply, but it would be appreciated. Thank you for your time.

These letters were sent out on December 8th.  As you can imagine, I have yet to receive any replies.  These were sent to their public e-mail addresses or contact forms on their employers websites.  I do realize that these high profile people must get thousands of e-mails on a daily basis.  I also am sure that they have interns or lackeys that go through them as either part of or their entire job.  I feel that 15 days is ample time to even send out a form letter.  So what does that say?   I can only make inferences, but to my mind is that they would rather spout off about taking money from the other rich, not them.  Is that an incorrect assumption, maybe, but considering the fact that they have not yet returned my e-mail, I cannot say that this isn’t true.

Ok, this one is really not just for liberals.  It’s for anyone that is all for the president’s plan to soak the rich and love to ‘shop local’.  Here’s all you need to do.  Find your favorite local, independent store.  It could be anything.  A pizza joint, a florist, that boutique that always has those oh so cute clothes.  Ask if you can speak with the owner.  Tell them how much you love shopping there (good to get the conversation off to a good start).  Then ask if they are an S corp.  When (if) they answer yes, congratulations!  You have found a business that will be soaked by the Obama Tax Plan.

I tried to explain this before.  If you wish to see it, go back to my “It’s one for you 19 for me” post.  For every small business that files as an S corp, they are taxed at the maximum PERSONAL tax rate.  That’s right…All the businesses profits/losses flow directly to the owner’s personal tax return.  That means that if your favorite business makes profits over $250,000, they are the ones that are going to pay Obama’s taxes.  What does that mean for you as the consumer?  Well, it could mean higher prices, that clerk that you love dealing with could have their hours cut (or their job lost entirely), or, in a worse case scenario, the business closes due to the new taxes choking off all of their profits.

You may not be rich yourself, so the taxes don’t directly affect you.  However, I’m sure that most of you have a small business that you frequent (even occasionally) that will be affected.  I’m not going to blame the low information voters.  Every one of the 51% of the voters that re-elected this administration is to blame.  Because you fell for the hype, you have managed to choke off the American Dream.  It’s a struggle and the hours are long and crappy, but everyone with ambition strives to own their own business.  What is better than saying that you work for yourself?  With these new taxes, existing businesses will struggle and new businesses will not be started.  Small business built this country.  Liberalism is trying to destroy it.

In my day to day life, I see many strange and unusual things.  I know that the majority of the strange and unusual things I see are only strange and unusual to me.  I have long since accepted that my brain doesn’t process things the way most people’s do.  However, one thing I saw a while ago (and has been festering ever since) I would hope would make others think about it the way I do.

I have mentioned before that I work at a school.  I won’t say which, but if you dig just a tiny bit, you will know which one.  All around the school, they have posters which list expectations of the students in the various areas.  Most are common sense reminders.  One, however, I am saddened to see.  It is this one:

Img0001_11-30-2012Now, the first time I saw this sign, I was a little shocked.  I mean, do we really need to have the school install these ‘traits’ into the kids?  I would think  that the parents should have taken care of this.  These signs are very large (I cropped this one for ease of reading and to prevent the school being known in the photo) and they are laminated.  A decent amount of time and money went into these.  Is this really necessary?  Has our child-rearing skills deteriorated so far that we need to rely on the schools to give half-grown children these simple, basic life skills?  Should I really be shocked by this?  I still laugh at the touchy-feely liberal mentality of the last one….What are we expecting?  Do we want the kids to feel like #1 while they go #2?

I have been hearing for years about and from the teachers that will have a class of 22 kids and only have 2-3 show up for conferences.  Is this the result?  Do we now have to spend time and resources teaching our kids in school things that they should be learning from their parents?   Is there any wonder why our schools are so far down?  I have seen a picture online shared by some liberals that think that all of our school problems would go away if we paid our teachers huge sums of money.  That is irrelevant to the problem.  You can pay each and every teacher $500,000 a year, but if they have to waste time teaching these simple things instead of the parents doing it, we will still have a low quality education system.  There are several issues with teacher’s unions that are a strain on the public sector, but this one falls squarely on the parenting. This is not all parents however.  Unfortunately, it is a larger and larger percentage of parents every day.  Until we find a way to hold parents accountable for their lack of parenting skills or their unwillingness to teach their kids even basic lessons, it doesn’t matter how much the teachers make, how much recess time they have, or if they have to take standardized tests…Our schools will continue to decline.  These parents may claim that the school has failed their children when in fact it was them that failed their children.

Well..here we are.  The silly season has begun when it comes to state budget talks.  Unfortunately, with the way that the media has this obsession with locking onto any idea even whispered by a Republican like a pit bull on a crippled cat, the statement by State Assembly Speaker-elect Robin Vos regarding the creation of toll roads has received more traction than it merits.

The DOT claims that the money is needed to raise funds to prevent delays in the Milwaukee Zoo interchange project and the I-39 project in the Madison area.  Nevermind that former Governor Jim Doyle raided the transportation fund several times during his reign to balance his woefully out of balance budget…The DOT needs this money.  Really?  How badly?  Well, I went to the source recently.  After a brief e-mail correspondence with Edward Tuecke, the WisDOT Chief of the Financial Management Section in the Office of Policy, Budget and Finance, I learned just how badly the state DOT needs these funds.

First, a little primer.  There is more than one way of accounting used when talking about a state level department.  One way to look at it is on a ‘budgetary basis’.  There are two ways to look at this, but basically both require receipts and disbursements to be recognized in the fiscal year in when they are received or paid.  The state’s accounting records remain open until July 31 in order to allow state departments to enter transactions applicable to the fiscal year ended June 30.  The other way is known as the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) basis.  Here, revenues are recognized when earned and expenditures are recognized when obligations are incurred as a result of the receipt of goods and services.  In order to keep my head from exploding from the mental acrobatics required to understand most accounting principles, I asked for the data that seemed the most straightforward.  Below is the end of fiscal year balance for the Wisconsin Transportation Fund using the GAAP basis since 2000.

Fiscal Year                            End of Year Balance

2000                                       336,894,000

2001                                       345,658,000

2002                                       356,330,000

2003                                       386,363,000

2004                                       348,006,000

2005                                       393,586,000

2006                                       387,227,000

2007                                       459,078,000

2008                                       422,102,000

2009                                       531,592,000

2010                                       650,148,000

2011                                       794,192,000

2012                                       690,208,000

Multi-year construction projects are calculated a bit differently depending on the method.  Under budgetary-basis reporting, these multi-year construction projects reserve current year budget authority.  Under GAAP, commitments for future year expenditures do not reduce fund balance.  Either way, while the DOT may not be awash in money in governmental numbers, they still aren’t broke either.  What does help out greatly is that the two most major projects over the past several years (the Marquette Interchange and the I-94 corridor from Milwaukee to Illinois) are either done in the case of the Marquette or nearing the halfway point.

This is simply another cash grab by a bloated government agency.  True, they do provide some needed services, but in this era of a stagnant economy I think that they (along with every other government agency) need to start to live within their means.  I don’t fault them for the Marquette Interchange project.  If you ever traveled the ‘Change before and looked at the underside of the bridges, you would know that the project needed to be done.  Same goes for the Zoo interchange, one of (if not the) most traveled interchanges in the state.  However, the redoing of Highway 41, specifically the roundabouts at every offramp, is a project that could have been delayed until a time when the economy was a bit better.  Another thing along these lines…There is a lot of chatter about how Milwaukee is dying.  The manufacturing base has fled, there is no economic development in the inner city, there are no jobs for the poor folks, etc.  Have any of you tried to drive around some areas of Milwaukee?  The roads are horrendous!  No wonder why no businesses want to go there.  If people won’t want to risk damage to their cars getting to a business, there’s no reason for a company to open up a location in the city.  Priorities need to be reset for many government agencies, not just the DOT.  We need to start saying no to these types of revenue increases until the agency can prove that they can manage it well.

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