Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Welcome To Wisconsin

(J. Scott Applewhite / AP Photo)
Welcome to Wisconsin Mr. President.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Headed To Dallas!

Well it certainly wasn't pretty for most of the game and there were a lot of tense moments in the second half - but all that matters is that the Packers are headed to the Super Bowl. I don't know if they can beat the Steelers - but it certainly is awesome to have a shot at the title. Ted Thompson deserves special recognition for building this team and stocking it full of talent. I don't know of too many other teams that could make it this far while losing so many starters to injury. The coaching staff has kept them together and has gotten the most out of some low-key guys.
Way to go Packers!!!!
(AP Photo / Jim Prisching)
What a pick-6 by B.J. Raji. His play on the D-Line has been spectacular all season long.

(AP Photo / Charles Rex Arbogast)
Rodgers got them started early. His game was off - but he set the tone for a victory.

(Nuccio DiNuzzo / Chicago Tribune / MCT)
Has any undrafted free agent ever played a bigger role? Shields was simply amazing today.

(Evan Siegle / Green Bay Press-Gazette)
When did Capers decide he was going to use Shields as a blitzer? Smart move!!

(AP Photo / David J. Phillip)
James Starks has been a major help in the playoffs to the running game.

(Corey Wilson / Green Bay Press-Gazette)
Perhaps the MVP of the game. Masthay has continued to get better - incredible punting today!

(Evan Siegle / Green Bay Press-Gazette)
The defense was rock solid today. They carried the team when the offense was down.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


The reform package - touted as an alternative to increased taxes or further cuts to state education funding - calls for increased class sizes and fewer teachers, balanced by more classroom technology with personal laptops and required online courses for high school students. Under the plan, educator pay would be based on merit, with bonuses for student achievement. Tenure for new teachers would be eliminated, as would job security based on seniority. The state would pay for the plan mostly by increasing the ratio of students-per-class from 18.2 to 19.8 during the next two years, saving about $100 million annually. Idaho would shed about 770 teaching jobs as class sizes increase and more courses are taught online.

Maureen Dolan. "Citizens Testify on Education." Coeur d'Alene Press 22 January 2011: A1.

Education is absolutely necessary. For some it is a way to help improve our nation and secure a better foundation for our future. For others, it apparently is a necessary evil that should be crippled with low finances and high expectations. What we must ask ourselves is what is best for our future and what will help us produce not only academically inclined students but healthy young men and women. With something as important as education - our minds should not be focused on penny pinching or on extravagant expenditures. Instead, we should be thinking about what is actually best for the the students and the education system in general.

The state of Idaho is currently in an educational debate with a set proposal being sent forth by the chiefs of education in the state - Tom Luna and Butch Otter. Their plan (as outlined by Maureen Dolan above) has been extremely controversial since its unveiling. Without tossing mud, serious questions have to be asked. Does anyone truly believe that increasing class sizes is for the benefit of kids or teachers? The more pupils per class - the harder it is to effectively teach and reach all of them. More kids per class will equal more kids being "lost" in the general education classroom. The same could be said about required online classes. I don't care how advanced technology is getting. The interaction and learning environment of a classroom with an actual teacher cannot be replaced with a laptop and cyber-classroom. There is so much more then learning the ABC's of a class that goes on inside a school. Are we willing to sacrifice that - and if so, what does that look like for the future of America?

Finally - what does merit mean? What does student achievement mean? Have we truly found a reliable method of measuring it? I do think teachers need effective accountability like any other profession. Teachers need to be held to a high standard and expected to do their best. However, simply relying upon test scores and other generic measurements does not give us an effective formula for merit or achievement. What about the teacher that has a tremendous impact upon kids who do not like school, will not try at school, and have no home life to enforce strict standards? Those kids might end up being responsible citizens and solid young men and women despite being academically deficient. The ability, attitude and home life of a student has far more weight on their performance & achievement then anything a school, teacher or class can do. Should teachers be punished when those 3 attributes are lacking?

Perhaps what is happening is that America is disgusted with what we are becoming as a nation. We are lazy, apathetic and self-indulgent. We have to have the very best but do not want to work hard to get it. We just expect things to come to us with little to no effort on our behalf. Our families continue to break down and our morality is ceasing to exist. As a result, we have become a nation that deplores our condition but refuses to take steps to correct our dismal state. So instead of taking a real hard look at ourselves, we instead lash out at things we feel our easier to blame and control. Instead of being disturbed at our broken families and lazy kids, it is much simpler to point the finger at teachers and their lack of effort. Its the schools' fault! Its my son or daughter's awful teacher's fault! Blame someone! Blame anyone! Just do not blame me.

Well taking aim at education through the elimination of teacher positions, increased class sizes, and lowered teacher salaries will certainly save dollars & look like reform. But in the end, as dead flies give perfume a bad smell, the folly of blaming education for our own iniquities will eventually bring our downfall in society.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Excessive Liberty

Beneath these two issues - treatment of the mentally ill and gun control - lies a deeper one: Where does one draw the line between freedom and anarchy in a democratic society? According to Yale law professor Paul Gewirtz, "Our various legal rules, taken together, may be producing a society in which liberty is bordering on disorder." The libertarian tendency is deeply American, going back all the way to the Whiskey Rebellion. But it must be balanced against a civilized society's need for behavioral constraints, agreed upon by the consent of the governed. If the Arizona shootings point in any direction, it is toward reassessing the excessive liberties we've granted ourselves in recent years.
Klein, Joe."Arms and the Unbalanced." Time 24 January 2011: 25.
The concept of liberty often means the freedom from despotic government, control, interference, obligation, restriction, confinement and restraint. It is a theory that has deep meaning in the United States forming a significant chunk of the foundation of the nation. There are few things people cherish more in this country. We love the liberty to speak our minds, choose our destinies, and keep our stuff. Infringement on any of our liberties is bound to attract negative attention from all sides of the political spectrum. William Wallace's "FREEDOM!" resonates with many of us as if George Washington screamed the same thing at Yorktown.

And yet it is with our great love of liberty that we have found ourselves in a moral morass. As much as we do not want any entanglements in our personal lives from the government, we have seen the potential danger to unrestrained choice. Our liberties have become the stumbling blocks to safety, sanity and well-being. Certainly the great majority of people can conduct themselves in a manner worthy of liberty. However, for the percentage that cannot...have we set ourselves up for failure in society? Is it possible that we might be hurting ourselves by allowing liberty to run unchecked? Of course no reasonable person would argue for Orwell's Big Brother to take control of our mess. However, as a collective group, perhaps the citizens of this country could develop a better system of checks & balances on our own freedom of choice.

It is said less is more. In the case of our liberties, perhaps choosing to give up some might be the answer to gaining more for our beloved land of freedom.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Epic Meeting

What a match-up! The NFC Championship game should be one for the ages. Both of these teams seem to be firing on all cylinders. They each boast great defenses and solid coaching staffs. I think Green Bay has the better quarterback and collection of wide receivers, but the Bears counter that with far superior special teams and the better running back. The only real separation might simply be Chicago getting to play at home while the Packers have to play in one of the most hostile places in the league. Since 1921 the two teams have played each 181 times. Number 182 will be epic and might be their biggest match-up since 1941. Hopefully Green Bay has not used up all their magic and can find a way to win. Go Pack Go!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Afghanistan Looms

Photo: Tyler Hicks / The New York Times
"After 10 years of fighting a war that now costs the U.S. upwards of $100 billion - $1 million per soldier - per year, where do we draw the line? Once we've cleared the Taliban from an area, what remaining responsibilities do we have - and what should the Afghans be doing for themselves? Do we really need to provide cold-storage facilities to the world's fourth poorest country? Given the sour U.S. economy and budget deficits, what to do about Afghanistan looms as a major domestic policy issue for President Barack Obama this year."
Klein, Joe. "Finishing The Job In Afghanistan. Needed: Security, Development And A Stable Pakistan." Time 17 January 2011:44-46.
Is it possible that most Americans are completely ignorant of the on-going conflict in Afghanistan? If so - does that mitigate the seriousness of the war that is costing a lot of money and lives? What is the U.S. plan for the war? Do we care about it long term - or are we simply going to look for the quickest duck & run strategy? Do Americans care more about getting our soldiers home or long-term stability for Afghanistan? Fiscally speaking, how do we continue the war? Will this issue be a key component of the Presidential election of 2012?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Keep & Bear Arms

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
I get it. Freedom is freedom. Once we start placing qualifiers on freedom it slowly erodes our rights as Americans. Restrictions make more restrictions easier to take hold. Just because one crazy person does something, says something, or causes some problem does not mean the rest of the country should deal with enforced consequences of his or her stupidity.

But why in the world is a 30-round magazine necessary for a handgun? Why do background checks still miss so many key questions and problems that individuals might have? Do we truly need over 100 million handguns in this country? And the most basic question I wrestle with - why have we become so fixated on the idea of owning, carrying, and using guns?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Vitriolic Rhetoric

"The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. The vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business...This has not become the nice United States that most of us grew up in. It's not unusual for all public officials to get threats constantly, myself included. That's the sad thing about what's going on in America: Pretty soon we're not going to be able to find reasonable decent people willing to subject themselves to serve in public office."
-Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik-
The political debate and opinion about the shootings in Tucson from this past weekend is going to last a long time with both sides of the fence providing argument. Each side has already used the tragedy to further their cause which in and of itself is extremely disappointing. The fact of the matter is that we should all be grieving over the incredibly sad & devastating shootings. It is a dark moment for the United States and humanity in general. There are just no words to be found for a moment like it.

But moving forward (as we must do as a society) - what do we need to learn. Like him or not, Sheriff Dupnik said something incredibly valuable in his above-mentioned statement. Anger, hate and bigotry remain at outrageous levels. And we have allowed our politics to spin more and more frustration out of voters, politicians, and the political process. Instead of disagreeing over healthcare issues - we demonize our opponents and their beliefs. Agreeing to disagree has been eliminated as a viable option. Extremists on the radio and television garner the largest ratings and so networks continue to allow them to run their mouths. The American public willingly allows themselves to be spoon fed hate because it just feels good to find someone to blame for the ill we feel. If we don't like the job we have, the spouse we chose, the insurance we get, or a variety of other issues - we simply point the finger at someone else. Its Obama's fault. Its Pelosi's fault. Its McConnell's fault. Its whoever the "hot ticket" for the opposing party that is to blame. We are so consumed with finger pointing, anger, and frustration that its vitriolic rhetoric that controls the day.

In the end, we are the ones that lose. We may not all be crazy and psychopathic, but so few of us are actually willing to take a strong stance against the shit we get fed each and every day. We have become so self-focused on our own problems that we refuse to see our "opponents" simply as people with different needs, wants and opinions on how to accomplish goals. The best we can hope for from this whole ordeal is the opportunity to start seeing people as people. Use this tragedy as the means for unification and working together for the best of society. Eliminate rage, anger, bitterness, malice, slander, deceit, hypocrisy and general mean spiritness. Let's not look to simply find which political viewpoint deserves the most blame. Instead, let us remember that we are all in this together and perhaps the best thing we can do is unite under the banner of love to move foward.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


23 carries for 123 yards. What a postseason debut for James Starks! It was a nice victory for Green Bay over Philadelphia. Now its time to get ready to play the #1 Atlanta Falcons.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

We'll See

"There's a little boy and on his 14th birthday he gets a horse...and everybody in the village says, 'how wonderful.' And the zen master says, 'we'll see.' Two years later, the boy falls off the horse, breaks his leg, and everyone in the village says, 'how terrible.' And the zen master says, 'we'll see.' Then, a war breaks out and all the young men have to go off and fight...except the boy can't because his legs are all messed up and everyone in the village says, 'how wonderful.'"
(Gust Avrakotos)
"Now the zen master says, 'we'll see.'"
(Charlie Wilson)
side-note: Charlie Wilson's War is one of my all-time favorite films.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Without Thought or Restraint

'As soon as riches came to be held in honour, and brought glory, imperium, and power, virtue began to grow dull; poverty was seen as disgraceful, innocence as malevolence. Therefore because of wealth, our youths were seized by luxury, greed and pride; they stole and squandered; reckoning their own property of little worth, they coveted other peoples'; contemptuous of modesty and chastity, of everything divine or human, they were without thought or restraint.'
- The senator and historian Sallust, writing in the late forties BC.-
Adrian Goldsworthy, Caesar: Life of a Colossus, (London: Yale University Press, 2006), 109.
Every winter a collection of guys and myself pick out a book (or 3) to read together with the expressed goal of learning something from history and hopefully gaining insights for our own lives. Discussion does not seem to happen often, but its been a fun exercise in reading, learning, and comradery. This winter we selected Roman leaders as the topic with Cicero, Julius Caesar, and Emperor Augustus as the primary focus. Needless to say, I have been overly thrilled with the readings thus far.

One of the things I cannot help but notice is the parallel between the ancient Roman world and that of modern America. I'm sure every historian has noted a parallel between that of the Roman world and those western countries who have assumed world power status since the fall of the empire, so I am not claiming original thought here. However, I see so many examples of our contemporary world facing the same ills of society that would eventually bring Rome to her knees. The above quote from Sallust in regards to riches becoming 'held in honour' speaks of the poverty of the American moral soul. Everything about America today screams of the need for riches, greed, and covetousness. People are valued by their material wealth, and those without it dream of having it. Riches have become the lens with which Americans view their worlds. As a result, pollution of our mindsets has become a real problem. Even our institutions like churches have become transfixed to the need to acquire and display wealth simply to get those with wealth in.

Recognizing this problem is easy. The solution is not. Even in my own life, I know I struggle with wanting bigger, better and more. Being content and chaste is not worthy anymore. Life without thought or restraint is glorified. As a result, America, much like Rome, finds itself in a quagmire with very little hope of solution.